The House voted Tuesday to approve another stopgap spending bill, despite mounting opposition from conservative lawmakers fed up with short-term budgets that only cut a few billion dollars at a time.
The House approved the mini-budget on a 271-158 vote. Republican leaders saw 54 members defect, up from six the last time the House took up a short-term bill. Eighty-five Democrats also voted for the budget, down from 104 the last time.
If approved by the Senate, the latest short-term budget bill would fund the government for three weeks, until April 8, and cut $6 billion from 2010 levels.
It comes after Congress approved a two-week budget, set to expire Friday, that cut $4 billion. Since congressional leaders have not yet been able to agree on a budget for the rest of the year, they had to come back with the follow-up to keep Washington running beyond Friday.
But dozens of Republicans switched sides to oppose Tuesday's bill, citing concerns that Congress was putting off the hard decisions. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., had said Congress needs to stop delaying the inevitable "confrontation" over spending for the rest of 2011.
The three-week bill would buy time for more negotiations, but so far talks have not yielded much middle ground. Tens of billions of dollars still separate the Democratic and Republican proposals for funding the government for the rest of the year.
Both parties acknowledge that the cycle of short-term budgeting is far from ideal -- not only does it keep the threat of government shutdown perpetually looming over Washington, it prevents Congress from getting to work on President Obama's 2012 budget proposal.
Party leaders stressed that point Tuesday, while continuing to antagonize each other.
"We cannot continue to fund the government with a series of stopgap measures, and I am hopeful that this is the last short-term (budget) we will have to deal with," House Republican Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said. He added that "the position of a majority of the Senate remains unknown," and Obama "has yet to truly weigh in."
House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., accused Republicans of being inflexible.
"Take it their way or no way," Hoyer said. "Why don't we just eliminate the rest of us and let them do what they want to do?"
Amid the discord, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney urged both parties to "come together," and soon.
"We cannot keep funding the government in two- or three-week increments," he said. "We have already met Republicans halfway, and we are optimistic that Congress can get this done."