Countdown to Another Fiscal Fail

Congress braces for brutal choice — more sequester or another shutdown.

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 17: Members of the bipartisan budget conference (L-R) Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) discuss their initial meeting at the U.S. Capitol October 17, 2013 in Washington, DC. Congress voted last night to fund the federal budget and increase the nation's debt limit, ending a 16-day government shutdown. 
National Journal
Sarah Mimms and Tim Alberta
Add to Briefcase
Sarah Mimms and Tim Alberta
Dec. 1, 2013, midnight

Law­makers in both parties could face a dan­ger­ous polit­ic­al di­lemma after they re­turn to Wash­ing­ton: Either en­dorse a second round of dam­aging se­quester cuts or pre­pare for an­oth­er gov­ern­ment shut­down.

The situ­ation is that stark, and it’s com­ing on fast.

Budget ne­go­ti­at­ors led by House Budget Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ry­an and Sen­ate Budget Com­mit­tee Chair­wo­man Patty Mur­ray are ra­cing to beat a Dec. 13 dead­line to draft a deal that would keep the gov­ern­ment open bey­ond Jan. 15.

They could get it done. Even House Speak­er John Boehner says he’s hope­ful. But oth­er law­makers and aides say the odds are not good, and that’s why House Re­pub­lic­ans are now pre­pared to pass a short-term con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion to fund the gov­ern­ment at the $966 bil­lion level that’s dic­tated by the Budget Con­trol Act, ush­er­ing in round two of the hated se­quester cuts.

“I think there are smarter spend­ing cuts that can re­place these crude across-the-board cuts. I’m hop­ing [Mur­ray] and I can come up with an agree­ment to do that,” Ry­an said re­cently. “But if not, the law is the law.”

The GOP strategy car­ries sig­ni­fic­ant down­side, however. Re­pub­lic­ans want the spend­ing cuts, but this next phase of se­quest­ra­tion in­cludes polit­ic­ally tricky re­duc­tions to Pentagon spend­ing — a $20 bil­lion slash that many law­makers are des­per­ate to stop.

House Re­pub­lic­ans, par­tic­u­larly, could find them­selves in a lose-lose situ­ation. They ac­know­ledge the dam­age done by Oc­to­ber’s shut­down saga and are de­term­ined to avoid a re­peat in Janu­ary, but many GOP law­makers are afraid of cut­ting the Pentagon’s fund­ing.

Enough House Re­pub­lic­ans rep­res­ent mil­it­ary-heavy dis­tricts that any vote framed as sup­port­ing fur­ther se­quest­ra­tion could be un­pre­dict­able for GOP lead­er­ship. Boehner’s team can af­ford to lose only 16 Re­pub­lic­an votes be­fore need­ing help from the oth­er side of the aisle. And giv­en the se­quester’s deep cuts to do­mest­ic pro­grams, sig­ni­fic­ant Demo­crat­ic sup­port for a con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion that keeps the auto­mat­ic re­duc­tions in place is un­likely.

One vo­cal GOP op­pon­ent of se­quest­ra­tion, House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee Chair­man Hal Ro­gers, has for months warned his col­leagues against ush­er­ing in a second round of across-the-board cuts. Ro­gers spec­u­lated last week there could be some “se­quester re­lief” in­cluded in a short-term CR, but he did not elab­or­ate on how that would hap­pen.

Mean­while, the Re­pub­lic­an lead­er­ship, while open to re­pla­cing se­quest­ra­tion, has in­creas­ingly in­dic­ated that it will move for­ward with the cuts if Ry­an and Mur­ray can­not reach an agree­ment. Both Boehner and Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell have said that they will push their mem­bers to sup­port the se­quest­ra­tion cuts, ab­sent an agree­ment.

As the Dec. 13 dead­line ap­proaches with no in­dic­a­tion of a deal at hand, even some of the party’s most vo­cal op­pon­ents of se­quest­ra­tion have be­gun to soften their op­pos­i­tion.

“I don’t like it, but I can live with it,” said one Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­an law­maker, who has pre­vi­ously spoken out against the se­quester cuts and asked not to be iden­ti­fied.

Rep. Jack King­ston, R-Ga., a mem­ber of the Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee and a vo­cal op­pon­ent of se­quest­ra­tion, said he couldn’t yet agree to a CR that would lock in those deep spend­ing cuts, par­tic­u­larly to the Pentagon.

But he, like many of his Re­pub­lic­an col­leagues, wor­ries that budget ne­go­ti­ations will con­clude on Dec. 13 without a deal. “I don’t know that they’re go­ing to get any­where,” he said.

King­ston’s pref­er­ence would be to get a budget agree­ment and pass 12 ap­pro­pri­ations bills for the re­mainder of the fisc­al year. But ab­sent a deal, King­ston said he would be open to sup­port­ing a con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion that locked in se­quest­ra­tion.

“We des­per­ately need to cut spend­ing,” King­ston said. “And se­quest­ra­tion is the only game in town that’s do­ing it.”¦ I would be re­luct­ant to get rid of it without oth­er, sig­ni­fic­ant, spend­ing cuts.”

What We're Following See More »
NOT WORRIED ABOUT BUDGET NEUTRALITY
Trump Wants to Slash Corporate Rate to 15%
33 minutes ago
THE LATEST
PROMISES “MASSIVE” CUTS
Trump Tax Reform Package Coming Next Week
33 minutes ago
THE LATEST

President Trump today said he'll be releasing his tax reformpacakge next week around the 100-day mark of his presidency. He promised that "businesses and individuals will receive a 'massive tax cut ... bigger I believe than any tax cut ever."

Source:
ONLY BROAD PRINCIPLES
Mulvaney: Tax Reform Details Won’t Be Released This Week
34 minutes ago
THE LATEST

Despite President Trump's announcement that his tax reform proposal would be released this week, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney now says it will be ready in June. This week's announcement will be limited to "specific governing principles."

Source:
OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS
Trump To Sign Order Calling For Expanded Drilling
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Donald Trump is expected Monday to sign an executive order which will mark his administration's first action on offshore oil and gas drilling. The order is expected to call for a "review of the locations available for offshore oil and gas exploration and of certain regulations governing offshore oil and gas exploration."

Source:
DOMESTIC PRIORITIES
Pence Cuts Asia Trip Short For Big Week
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Vice President Mike Pence has cut his Asia trip short "to race back to Washington, where the Trump administration faces a critical week on tax reform and a funding plan to keep the government running, an aide said on Sunday." Pence will return to Washington on Tuesday morning instead of Wednesday. Trump has a busy week ahead, as he plans to roll out a tax reform on framework, sign a number of executive orders, and works to keep the government open past Friday.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login