The House will not take up a continuing resolution to keep the government funded before the week of March 4, but how it came to that starting date is the subject of some debate.
A small faction of House conservatives is quietly claiming credit for persuading Republican leadership to postpone any action on the CR until after sequestration kicks in March 1. They say that their aim was to make sure the CR reflected the lower spending level achieved by the automatic spending cuts.
According to one House Republican aide, roughly a dozen conservative members huddled late last week to discuss the timing of a new CR. One member in that meeting expressed concern that leadership wanted to pass a CR with pre-sequester spending levels and would simply count on the sequester to automatically reduce those figures.
While there was some confusion about the mechanics of that plan, there was unified opposition to the idea of passing a CR with pre-sequester expenditure limits. Conservative members emerged from that meeting convinced that the only way to lock in the post-sequester spending levels would be to vote on the new CR after March 1, and they successfully pleaded their case to leadership soon thereafter.
Hogwash, according to several senior House GOP leadership aides, one of whom called this a case of conservatives and their allied think tanks claiming victory against the establishment in a battle that never was fought.
“There was never a disagreement,” that aide said.
This recollective disconnect is reflective of the fragile partnership between House Republican leadership and the conservative rank and file, many of whom are seemingly anticipating a moment of ideological betrayal after the internecine battles of the last Congress. Whether these warring accounts of the CR rollout represent a simple miscommunication or something more serious remains to be seen. What’s clear is that Republicans always intended for the CR to reflect the post-sequester spending levels. And if advancing the bill after March 1 makes some conference members more comfortable, so be it.
Chris Frates contributed
This article appeared in the Thursday, February 21, 2013 edition of National Journal Daily.
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