House GOP Eyes Six-Month Funding Bill

by Andrew Stiles

On the homepage, I examine how the House GOP’s multi-step budget strategy — as outlined at the conference retreat in January – is working out thus far. The decision to delay a confrontation over the debt ceiling, thus setting up a showdown on sequestration, seems to have turned out fairly well for Republicans, at least for now.

House Republicans have already moved on to the next phase of the process, introducing a six-month continuing resolution (CR) funding the government through the end of the fiscal year (September 30). A vote is expected later this week. House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) said Tuesday that Republicans would “expeditiously” pass the resolution, putting pressure on the Democratic Senate to act. The existing continuing resolution is set to expire at the end of March.

The $984 billion funding measure locks in federal spending at the levels called for under sequestration, while giving greater flexibility to the Pentagon and other agencies to implement the spending reductions. However, it lacks many of the controversial policy provisions that conservative members have sought to attach in the past, such as the defunding of Obamacare. Many Republicans were concerned that including them would draw unnecessary public criticism. “We all want to repeal Obamacare,” says one House GOP aide. “But we don’t think bringing that up in the middle of this fight is something the public would expect or would support.”

Republicans are hoping to capitalize on what they see as a clear admission of defeat from President Obama, who last week said he would not oppose a funding resolution that incorporated lower spending levels under the sequester. “This was a necessary win for Republicans,” a GOP aide told National Review Online. “It’s not sufficient, but absolutely a necessary win.”

Given that a number of key conservative members have signaled their support for the CR, it should easily pass the House, perhaps with the help of several Democrats. Then all eyes will be on Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), who could face pressure to follow suit by keeping the sequestration spending levels in place. Because as Obama has already said: “There’s no reason why that deal needs to be reopened.”

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