With all of the other news ricocheting around the media and social networks, this may seem like a sleeper of a story, but it’s a bigger deal than one might think — literally as well as figuratively. Last night, House Republicans unveiled their proposed continuing resolution that will fund government well past the midterm elections, and it won’t make conservatives like Rep. Jeb Hensarling too happy. The proposal calls for a simple extension of current funding, plus some extra cash to deal with the Ebola outbreak in Africa and more flexibility on the use of cash for border security. Otherwise, this is a pooch kick to December:
House Republican leaders Tuesday unveiled a temporary government funding bill that includes a short-term extension of a trade-promotion agency that has been targeted by conservative activists, eliminating a key sticking point in the effort to avoid a government shutdown.
The bill would keep the government running on this year’s budget levels from the start of the new fiscal year, Oct. 1, until mid-December, when negotiators would prefer to approve detailed spending plans for the federal agencies through 2015.
Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the bill would keep federal agencies open through Dec. 11, would match President Obama’s request for $88 million in funds to help fight the spread of Ebola in Africa, and would provide flexibility to departments working on the U.S.-Mexico border to handle the flood of unaccompanied Central American minors arriving at the border.
Even Hensarling bowed to the wisdom of putting off the Export-Import Bank fight until the next session of Congress, according to John Boehner:
Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters that he had been discussing the issue with Hensarling, who had agreed that extending the agency into next year would be a smarter move than engaging in a shutdown fight just ahead of the November elections over a relatively obscure agency that promotes jobs.
“He thinks that a temporary extension of the Export-Import Bank is in order,” Boehner told reporters, a rare instance of the speaker announcing the intentions of one of his committee chairmen.
Hensarling repeatedly denied requests for comment Tuesday. Senior GOP aides in the House and Senate suggested that building in time for the fight next spring and summer would be a smarter play, especially if the Senate flips to Republican control in the midterm elections.
That’s certainly true, assuming that the GOP can win control of the Senate. Passing a continuing resolution now and avoiding a game of chicken with the Senate at the end of September improves their chances, certainly, by allowing the budget differences to float under the radar until after the midterms. Few Republicans want another government shutdown while they’re winning so handily otherwise in midterm momentum, and any game-changers are not likely to be positive.
Of course, even a clean CR doesn’t mean that Harry Reid can’t throw a wrench into the works. However, Reid drew the line yesterday before the GOP unveiled the proposal, and probably can’t go back and redraw it after getting what he publicly demanded:
The Post’s Robert Costa and Paul Kane foresee this gaining easy Senate approval, which would then mean almost certain approval from Barack Obama. The last thing he needs in this election is to be so out of the mainstream as to fall outside a bipartisan budget agreement, even if it’s temporary.
Ted Cruz likely won’t take steps to block it, or lobby House conservatives against it, the Associated Press concludes:
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a driving force behind last year’s partial government shutdown, said Tuesday that he would like to attach a measure to the spending bill stopping Obama from taking executive action to curb deportations.
“I think we should use any and all means necessary to prevent the president from illegally granting amnesty,” Cruz said at a news conference.
“That certainly, I think, would be appropriate to include” in the spending bill, Cruz said. “But I think we should use every — every — tool at our disposal.”
Cruz made his statement in response to a question from a reporter, and it was plain that he doesn’t want to spark a repeat of last year’s shutdown. He’s unlikely to get his vote.
And one House conservative who joined Cruz at the news conference said it wouldn’t be a good idea to try to use the spending bill to force a showdown over immigration.
“We need to pass whatever funding to prevent a government shutdown, first and foremost,” said Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to risk a government shutdown.”
Some conservatives may not be happy with a delay on fighting for spending reductions and the end of the Ex-Im Bank, but this is a tactical delay rather than a retreat. It does set up an interesting Christmas-season debate, however, if the lame-duck session of Congress wants to have one.