House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., on Tuesday accused the White House of making a government shutdown more likely by "rejecting" a House Republican offer to keep the government funded for one more week.
A White House meeting with congressional leaders produced no deal on a short-term spending measure on Tuesday morning, but the White House would not comment on its response to the GOP offer, saying only that a longer agreement was still possible before Friday's shutdown deadline.
"It is not necessary to continue a process of short-term measures when an agreement is within reach and we've had a target figure and the parameters of that agreement," said White House press secretary Jay Carney. As for the one-week offer, he added, "I'm not going to confirm or deny what we may or may not do."
Cantor's comments appear to be part of a strategic effort by the GOP to pin blame on the other side in the event of a shutdown. That in itself may be an indication that Republicans perceive an increasing risk of a shutdown.
That stop-gap measure unveiled by House Republican leaders on Monday night would require $12 billion in discretionary spending cuts, but also provide funding for the Defense Department through the remainder of FY11, which ends on September 30.
If enacted, it would be the seventh short-term continuing resolution since the start of the fiscal year, as the House and Senate continue to be unable to reach a deal to fund all of government through September 30. The current stop-gap measure expires at midnight on Friday.
Cantor’s comments came during a news conference on Tuesday morning, as Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and other lawmakers were meeting with President Obama at the White House. That meeting produced no deal, and Republicans say they were not happy with the options on the table.
“While there was a good discussion, no agreement was reached,” Boehner said, adding that he “will not be put in a box and forced to choose between two options that are bad for the country" -- either a "bad deal" or a shutdown.
The Speaker said the new CR has not yet been scheduled for floor action, and that Republicans’ strong preference is to instead pass a bipartisan agreement this week that makes real spending cuts and keeps the entire government running through September.
But, Cantor said, “the White House has indicated now that they are already rejecting that notion, which is raising the risk of a government shutdown.”
"I think that what it looks like is that the White House has increased the likelihood of a shutdown in just dismissing out of hand a vehicle that we have put forward to say, ‘Look, we don’t want a shutdown’."
Cantor added that the offer was in part an effort to make sure that there was no disruption in military funding. “Our members are very concerned to make sure our troops are funded and they are paid regardless,” he said. "We in the House have consistently said we don’t want don’t want to shut government down, we just want to cut spending.”
The Republican bill, specifically, provides $515.8 billion in base funding for the DOD, a 2.9 percent reduction from President Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget request, and a $7.6 billion increase, or 1.5 percent, above the fiscal 2010 level.
It provides a total of $157.8 billion for overseas contingency operations for missions abroad, including $126.4 billion for military personnel, providing for 1,432,400 active duty and 846,200 reserve troops. The bill also contains a total of $165.6 billion for operations and maintenance, $102.1 billion for procurement, $75 billion for research and development, and $31.4 billion for Defense health programs.
Of the $12 billion in cuts included in the measure, $2.5 billion come from Labor Department and Health and Human Services programs, including $156 million from Centers for Disease Control immunization and respiratory disease funding, $185 million in hospital preparedness grants, $119 million in “Teaching American History” program funding, $390 million from the LIHEAP contingency fund, and $300 million in information technology funding at the Social Security Administration.
Many of those cuts were also included in the president’s budget requests, in the Senate’s CR proposal, or in the Office of Management and Budget CR proposal, according to the House Appropriations Committee.
Another $2 billion in cuts come from Transportation and Housing and Urban Development programs, including $1.5 billion from rail grant funds. In addition, Capital Investment Grants would be cut by $280 million, the Public Housing Operating fund is cut by $149 million, and the University Community Fund is eliminated, saving $25 million.
The GOP measure also includes language preventing Guantanamo Bay detainees from being transferred into the United States for any purpose, prevents the construction or modification of detention facilities within the U.S for the housing of detainees, and requires the secretary of Defense to provide a certification to Congress that a transfer of any detainee to any foreign country or entity will not jeopardize the safety of the U.S. or its citizens. This language is virtually identical to existing law that was included in the National Defense Authorization Act.
The CR also includes a provision preventing both federal and local funds from being used to provide abortions in the District of Columbia, also known as the Dornan amendment.
Cantor, who last week had seemed to rule out the possibility of House Republicans going along with another short-term continuing resolution, said no final decision has been made on whether the chamber will go ahead and pass its one-week measure.
“We have posted the bill online. We have not made a decision whether to move this bill forward or not,” he said.
“We’re looking to see how we can avoid a government shutdown but cut spending. We have not made a decision whether to move forward or not.”
When pressed on whether House Republicans might be willing to negotiate and embrace a short-term CR containing less than $12 billion in cuts, he said: “Our members are resolute in wanting to see that we can cut as much spending as possible."
Cantor expressed further pessimism when asked later, at his weekly news conference, if Republicans would waive their three-day rule for public posting of a bill before floor action if such an agreement was reached later this week.
"I don’t know if that hypothetical is even applicable," he said, adding, "I'm saying I don't think that that's even a likelihood, and that there would be some need for a bridge to get there."
This article appears in the April 5, 2011, edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.