In all of the hysteria over the sequester this week, almost all of it from the White House and amplified by the media until Arne Duncan blew up the strategy, we missed this interesting little tidbit on the long game. The Hill reported on Thursday that House Republicans have begun to form a consensus that the sequester reductions will be as good as it gets in this budget year, and are ready to consolidate those gains in the final six months of the budget year:
Conservative House Republicans on Wednesday signaled support for their leadership’s plan to pass a six-month government-funding measure that would reflect the budget cuts from the sequester.
The stamp of approval — mixed with only tepid skepticism from a few members who have bucked Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in the past —increases the likelihood a government shutdown will be avoided after March 27, when the current stopgap funding bill runs out.
There had been suggestions that the House should escalate the fight in the CR battle by either making more substantial cuts than the sequester imposed — such as those were — and defund ObamaCare, which would have stopped the budget process cold. Instead, it looks as though conservatives are going to bide their time on other priorities, and declare victory on the sequester alone for FY2013:
“The fact is that if we get the CR at the post-sequester level that is a big win,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a conservative leader who recently stepped down as the head of the Republican Study Committee.
He and other conservatives said they could support the legislation even if does not defund “ObamaCare” or the requirement that insurance plans cover contraception.
“I support the approach,” RSC Chairman Steve Scalise (R-La.) said Tuesday.
“I think all or most conservatives will be on board with doing that,” said Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), who is also looked at as a leader of the party’s right wing.
So what will they want out of the CR fight, other than the post-sequester status quo, which may be a tough hill to hold anyway? Mitch McConnell identified the next goal in his reaction to the all-for-show meeting with Barack Obama yesterday:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., vowed that he’d “not be part of any backroom deal” on the sequester and that he would “absolutely not agree to increase taxes.”
The next goal is normal-order budgeting, and an end to the fiscal cliffs created by Harry Reid’s no-budget strategy. The House wants to push ahead soon on a new CR in order to force the Senate to produce its own version through normal order, rather than having John Boehner and Harry Reid meet in a White House cloakroom with Barack Obama hovering overhead. That starts with this CR and then moves into the FY2014 budget debate next month. If Republicans can keep taxes off the table and the sequestration reductions in the rate of increase in place, that will be an incremental but still significant win. The position of the conservatives on the upcoming CR strategy is designed to give Reid no excuses in following the proper budgeting procedure.