House GOP Poised to Push Straight Funding Bill

Fearing shutdown, Republicans will approve a CR before recess that includes the sequester cuts if budget talks fail.

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 18: U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (L) speaks as Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) (R) looks on during a news conference after a House Republican Conference meeting July 18, 2012 at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, DC. House Republicans continued to challenge the Obama Administration on the speed of job creations. 
National Journal
Tim Alberta
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Tim Alberta
Dec. 4, 2013, 4:03 p.m.

It’s crunch time for con­gres­sion­al budget ne­go­ti­at­ors and House Re­pub­lic­ans, des­per­ate to avoid an­oth­er gov­ern­ment shut­down, aren’t tak­ing any chances.

If Rep. Paul Ry­an and Sen. Patty Mur­ray fail to pro­duce the frame­work for a budget agree­ment early next week, GOP law­makers said they are pre­pared to pass a short-term con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion as a pree­mpt­ive meas­ure be­fore head­ing home for the hol­i­day break next Fri­day.

“We’d rather get a long-term budget agree­ment. But if there’s no sign of one, we’ll have to pass something short term,” said Rep. James Lank­ford of Ok­lahoma, the Re­pub­lic­an Policy chair­man and a mem­ber of the GOP lead­er­ship.

Lead­er­ship doesn’t want to step on Ry­an’s hard-won pro­gress, es­pe­cially at a crit­ic­al point in the ne­go­ti­ations. But they can’t af­ford to wait much longer to act. As Lank­ford poin­ted out, the House has a three-day rule for mov­ing bills from the Rules Com­mit­tee to the House floor. That means, bar­ring ex­traordin­ary man­euv­er­ing, GOP lead­er­ship must file its CR no later than Wed­nes­dayto pass the meas­ure by Fri­day.

The House ad­journs Dec. 13 for a three-and-a-half-week hol­i­day re­cess, the same day budget ne­go­ti­at­ors must re­port to Con­gress wheth­er they have reached a long-term agree­ment to set spend­ing levels and soften se­quest­ra­tion cuts. Con­gress does not re­con­vene un­til the week of Jan. 6.

Without a new fund­ing meas­ure, either an om­ni­bus bill based on the spend­ing levels set by Ry­an and Mur­ray or an­oth­er short-term CR that funds the gov­ern­ment at se­quester levels, the gov­ern­ment will shut down Jan. 16. That’s a dead­line Re­pub­lic­ans, still reel­ing from the Oc­to­ber shut­down, are des­per­ate to avoid.

“We need to leave town with something on the shelf,” said Rep. John Flem­ing, R-La. “The key is, we don’t want to give the im­pres­sion that we’re gone for three or four weeks and haven’t done any­thing” to avoid an­oth­er shut­down in Janu­ary.

Flem­ing, who said he’s skep­tic­al that Ry­an and Mur­ray will an­nounce any kind of agree­ment soon, ad­ded: “I’m 99 per­cent sure we’re go­ing to leave town next Fri­day with a clean CR at se­quester levels.”

At the same time, Re­pub­lic­ans in­dic­ated that if budget ne­go­ti­at­ors were to un­veil even the frame­work of an agree­ment next week, that could prompt House lead­er­ship to hold off on passing a con­tin­gency CR. “If they get an agree­ment on a budget deal that can be achieved next week, and we can work out the de­tails the week we come back [in Janu­ary], that’s fine,” said Rep. Steve Scal­ise, chair­man of the Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee.

Some Re­pub­lic­ans think a CR would add ur­gency to the budget talks. The reas­on is simple: Any short-term fund­ing meas­ure would be at the $967 bil­lion an­nu­al spend­ing mark man­dated by the Budget Con­trol Act. These lower spend­ing levels would be reached by ush­er­ing in a second round of se­quester cuts, which Demo­crats — and some Re­pub­lic­ans — are hop­ing to elim­in­ate.

Demo­crats are anxious to avoid a short-term CR, since it would lock in deep­er cuts.

“A CR is simply an in­dic­a­tion that the House is totally dys­func­tion­al,” Rep. Chris Van Hol­len, a Demo­crat­ic mem­ber of the budget con­fer­ence, said Wed­nes­day.

Van Hol­len, who re­mains hope­ful for a budget deal, said Demo­crat­ic lead­ers are privately dis­cuss­ing their own al­tern­at­ive in case the talks fall through. Their pro­pos­al would in­clude an al­tern­at­ive to the pending se­quest­ra­tion cuts, as well as an ex­ten­sion of un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance be­ne­fits, which are set to ex­pire Dec. 28, ac­cord­ing to a House Demo­crat­ic aide.

On the Re­pub­lic­an side, some law­makers — es­pe­cially those rep­res­ent­ing mil­it­ary-heavy dis­tricts — are op­posed to an­oth­er round of se­quest­ra­tion be­cause of the $20 bil­lion that will be slashed from the De­fense De­part­ment’s budget. GOP law­makers on Wed­nes­day es­tim­ated that 20 to 30 “de­fense hawks” in their con­fer­ence would vote to pro­tect the Pentagon from se­quest­ra­tion.

But in in­ter­views with sev­er­al law­makers who have a sig­ni­fic­ant mil­it­ary pres­ence on their home turf, none was out­right op­posed to passing a CR. Even Flem­ing, who noted that he has “two big bases” in his Louisi­ana dis­trict, in­dic­ated that he’ll sup­port a short-term fund­ing meas­ure to avoid an­oth­er shut­down. “I don’t think there are enough of us to pre­vent that CR from get­ting passed,” Flem­ing said.

Sarah Mimms contributed to this article.
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