GOP Readies Short-Term CR as Budget Talks Break Down

by Andrew Stiles

House Republicans are preparing a third short-term spending resolution in the event that a long-term compromise cannot be reached with Senate Democrats and the White House before April 8, GOP aides confirm. That scenario suddenly looks a lot more likely after a tense back-and-forth Monday between leaders on both sides of the debate. The measure would last for one week, cut $12 billion in domestic discretionary spending, but would include funding for the Defense Department until the end of the current fiscal year (September 30).

GOP leaders are also distributing pamphlets instructing members on how to prepare for a government shutdown, making sure they are ready for all possible scenarios.

Following a Republican conference meeting Monday night, House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rogers (R., Ky.) accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) of negotiating in bad faith and placed the blame for the recent breakdown in negotiations squarely at Reid’s feet, alleging that the Senate leader had abruptly told Democratic negotiators to cease negotiating over the weekend. “We made good progress Saturday, but come Sunday things just stopped,” Rogers said.

Several members expressed concern that Senate Democrats were angling for a government shutdown. “That’s the only possible interpretations of [Reid's] actions,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R., Idaho), a senior member of the Appropriations Committee. “We’re doing everything we can to avoid a government shutdown. If the government shuts down it will be because Harry Reid refuses to sit and negotiate in good faith…it’ll be because that’s what they want.”

More details to come.

UPDATE: Boehner’s office confirms that tomorrow Rep. Dan Lungren (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Administration Committee, will formally issue guidance to all members as to how the House would function in the event of a government shutdown.

“The discussion with Democrats will continue, but the House has an obligation to be ready if the White House and Senate Democrats choose to shut down the government,” an aide said.

Additionally, the House Appropriations Committee will post online later tonight the text of the short-term continuing resolution described above.

“We hope the White House and Senate Democrats will get serious about making real spending cuts on a long-term bill,” the aide said, “but this measure provides us with an option if House Republicans choose to use it.”

Multiple sources also tell us that Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget — due out Tuesday morning — was frequently brought up in conversations among members, in order to point out that the real fight over federal spending and the size of government has yet to begin.

UPDATE II: The House Appropriations Committee has posted information about the new continuing resolution here. In a statement, chairman Rogers lays into Harry Reid for holding up negotiations on a long-term deal, saying “we cannot let the unruly actions of one person cause a government-wide shutdown.”

“My Committee has worked diligently and fervently to negotiate with the Senate on final agreement for funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year,” Rogers said. “However, at nearly every turn, these negotiations have been blocked by Senate Majority Leader Reid.”

“Leader Reid has attempted to abuse the budget process to conceal additional spending through phony offsets and gimmicks. He has proposed damaging cuts to national defense to pay for lower-priority domestic programs. He has prohibited the involvement of his own Democrat Senators in negotiations. And, he has dictated that all policy provisions and legislative language be cleared through him and him alone – destroying the ability of negotiators to continue in their work.”

As stated previously, the resolution includes funding for the Defense Department through September 30, while funding other government operations for another week, cutting spending by $12 billion. On an annualized basis, this would yield nearly half a trillion dollars in savings. All of the cuts were included in the House-passed spending bill, H.R. 1, and many were also included in either President Obama’s budget request for 2012 or the Senate Democrats’ alternative proposal.

The one-week CR also includes a minor provision that might be classified as a “policy rider,” prohibiting “both federal and local funds from being used to provide abortions in the District of Columbia.” 

More here.

This is another shrewd move from Boehner. It places the ball squarely in the Democrats’ court and gives him additional leverage heading into Tuesday’s meeting at the White House. That is, of course, assuming he can limit the number of defections — in the event that the bill must be passed — among members who pledged not to support another short-term spending bill. But it remains to be seen if that will even be necessary. Would Democrats really be willing to shut the government down over $12 billion?

UPDATE III (Tuesday, 11:25 a.m.): House Republican leaders — minus House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), who was attending bipartisan talks at the White House — told reporters they have not yet decided whether to move forward with the one-week resolution, and appeared to confirm reports that White House officials have already rejected the proposal. In doing so, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) said, “the White House now has increased the likelihood of a government shutdown.”

“It is unfortunate that Senate Democrats appear to want to shut down the government,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas), the GOP conference chair.

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