Republicans Aim to Hamper Obama’s Policies With Spending Bills

From environmental and work force regulations to health care and contraception, congressional Republicans are using spending bills to try to dismantle President Obama’s policies, setting up a fiscal feud this fall that could lead to a government shutdown.

Even a planned papal visit to Congress in late September has added to the intrigue as the clock on a budget deal winds down.

“A lot of things are moving toward some kind of a climax,” said Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma and a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, who is pushing for negotiations now rather than later. “I think we’re asking the pope to do too much, but hey, mood is important to the legislative process.”

The House and Senate appropriations committees are churning out annual spending bills, dropping the bipartisanship that has long characterized the committees. The bills adhere to strict overall spending limits imposed in 2011 that Mr. Obama has already said he will not accept.

But beyond spending cuts, the bills collectively represent a firm reassertion of power by the Republican-controlled Congress.

In the House, one bill prohibits any federal money from being spent on the Affordable Care Act. Funds for the enforcement of new labor rules would be drastically reduced. The main federal family planning program, Title X, would be eliminated. The administration’s efforts to impose strict rules on for-profit universities would be reversed, as would new rules requiring retirement investment advisers to prove they have no financial conflicts of interest.

Another bill, now on the House floor, to finance the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency would stop regulation of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking; prohibit implementation of carbon emission standards for electric power plants; block new clean-water rules; and stop the government’s marine and coastal planning efforts to respond to climate change.

Other bills would block the Food and Drug Administration from reviewing e-cigarette marketing and keep the Federal Communications Commission from carrying out “net neutrality” regulation of the Internet. A “conscience” rider would let employers in the District of Columbia refuse health insurance coverage for any service on moral grounds, and hire and fire based on women’s use of health services.

The White House has vowed to veto each of the dozen spending bills in the works, and Senate Democrats have pledged to filibuster before they can even reach the president.

“Frankly, the fall is shaping up to be the most predictable — and, really, avoidable — budget crisis in memory,” said Representative Nita M. Lowey of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee.

Two changes have combined to make this budget season particularly contentious. The first is Republican control of Congress. Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, said the appropriations process was a way for Republicans to block new White House efforts and roll back old ones.

The other change is budgetary. After a protracted fight over raising the government’s statutory borrowing limit, Congress and Mr. Obama agreed in 2011 to strict spending limits for domestic and defense programs that would last a decade, absent a larger budget deal that overhauled the federal tax code and entitlement programs like Medicare. In the face of those limits, Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, and Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, negotiated a two-year budget deal to lift the caps.

With the reprieve ending Oct. 1 and Democrats no longer in control of the Senate, Republicans approved a budget this spring demanding adherence to the 2011 restrictions.

“The Appropriations Committee in the Senate is reporting out bills consistent with the budget that the Senate passed, and we’re going to move forward,” Mr. McConnell said last month.

With Democrats promising to vote against any bill that sticks to those limits, Republican appropriators have had to shift spending bills to the right to win the support of Congress’s most conservative members. Mr. Cole called the 10 bills that have passed the Appropriations Committee “the opening position in a negotiation” that has yet to begin.

But that position has only strengthened the president’s resolve.

Compounding the problem is the fact that the government will be nearing its statutory borrowing limit in late September, when Pope Francis is to be in Washington, heightening tensions around cuts to social welfare programs.

Senior House Appropriations Committee members, including the panel’s chairman, Representative Harold Rogers of Kentucky, have already told Republican leaders that the time to negotiate a way out of the impasse is now, not in the shadow of the papal visit or a government shutdown Oct. 1, said Representative Charlie Dent, Republican of Pennsylvania and a subcommittee chairman.

Short of that, appropriators will press for quick passage in September of a “continuing resolution” to keep the government funded at current levels through December and begin budget talks.

“We all know there’s going to have to be a short-term C.R. to take us from September to December,” Mr. Dent said. “And I would hope sometime between now and then, we’ll have a negotiated budget agreement.”

But so far, Republican leaders have said little.

“We’ve got a plan that gives him what he wants for defense and keeps the caps in place,” Speaker John A. Boehner said, referring to Mr. Obama’s military spending request, which Congress plans to meet by increasing emergency war funding not subject to the 2011 limits. “And if he wants to have a budget negotiation, all he has to do is ask. I’m a pretty reasonable guy.”

What the president sees as unreasonable are the bills being drafted to adhere to the caps.

House Republican legislation would either reduce full-day, full-year service for 570,000 young children in Head Start or cut 140,000 children from the program altogether, the White House budget office said. That bill would also cut $6.4 billion from the president’s education spending request, and $370 million from the Pell Grant higher education program.

Funding for job training would be almost $500 million less than the White House requested. The National Labor Relations Board’s budget would be cut by nearly a third.

Family planning would be all but eliminated. National service programs would be cut 42 percent. The Environmental Protection Agency’s operation budget would fall $474 million, or 13 percent. The federal Land and Water Conservation Fund would lose $152 million, or 38 percent. Cuts to the National Park Service as it prepares to celebrate its centennial would delay about 70 percent of its construction projects and more than a third of its repair and rehabilitation efforts.

To the Republicans drafting those bills, the cuts are about priorities. The same health and labor bill would increase spending on the National Institutes of Health by more than $1 billion and protect the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Higher education aid would be focused on historically black colleges, predominantly Hispanic universities and tribal education.

“The reality is we still live in a divided government,” Mr. Cole said. “It’s not as if the Democrats can be shut out, but they can’t dictate to us any more than we can dictate to them. It’s time to sit down and see if we can make a deal.”
Correction: July 7, 2015

An earlier version of this article misidentified the state that Senator Patty Murray represents. It is Washington, not Wisconsin.
Correction: July 9, 2015

Because of an editing error, a picture credit in some copies on Wednesday with an article about congressional efforts to dismantle President Obama’s policies through spending bills misidentified the photographer. The picture, of the president in the Oval Office, was taken by Evan Vucci for The Associated Press, not by Stephen Crowley of The New York Times.