Boehner Cobbles Together New Spending Stopgap

Posted April 4, 2011 at 10:13pm

Updated: 11:48 p.m.

With negotiations breaking down Monday on a six-month spending bill, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will float a one-week measure that includes a controversial abortion rider and $12 billion in cuts in the hopes of extracting further concessions from Democrats on the longer-term deal.

While the stopgap will primarily be a short-term measure, it would also fund the Defense Department through the end of fiscal 2011 on Sept. 30, according to a statement released by House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) late Monday. It otherwise continues funding through April 15, just before lawmakers in both chambers are scheduled to leave Capitol Hill for a two-week recess.

The decision to introduce the bill comes as Boehner prepares for a White House meeting Tuesday with President Barack Obama about finding a way forward to avoid a government shutdown. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Rogers are also scheduled to attend the 10:15 a.m. meeting.

The bill “provides us with an option if House Republicans choose to use it,” Boehner’s office said Monday night.

Although Senate Democrats and the White House have agreed to $33 billion in cuts, more than half of the $61 billion in cuts that the House passed this year, Boehner appears intent on forcing more reductions from Democrats. But wary that an impasse would shut down the government, Boehner is proposing the one-week stopgap, which Rogers introduced late Monday.

The stopgap will include $12 billion in cuts to discretionary spending and a provision that would prohibit the District of Columbia government from using federal or local funds to pay for abortions for low-income women, according to Rogers’ statement.

A spokesman for Reid dismissed the short-term bill Monday night. “We’re negotiating a long-term budget resolution,” spokesman Jon Summers said. “That’s why we’re all going to the White House on Tuesday.”

Rogers told reporters Monday that Republicans are serious about trying to avert a shutdown and that Senate Democrats are not working in good faith to avoid one.

“We spent the weekend conversing with the Senate, and all of a sudden we made good progress Saturday, come Sunday things just stopped,” he said, adding that Reid would not let his staff agree to any policy riders or allow negotiators to talk about specific numbers without checking with him.

A shutdown is possible, according to Rogers.

“We want to avert that at all costs on our side,” he said. “That’s why I’m puzzled the Senator has stopped the negotiations knowing it could lead to a shutdown.”

The Kentucky Republican demurred when asked for specifics about Republicans’ plans, telling reporters, “You may be impressed.”

Boehner called an impromptu closed-door meeting with his Conference on Monday evening, ostensibly to discuss the potential shutdown. Republicans said little in the way of new details, although Boehner indicated that operational guidance would be provided to Congressional offices Tuesday.

Summers slammed the effort to prepare for a shutdown, arguing that Republicans should focus on the negotiations.

“Democrats remain committed to negotiating a solution that would prevent a government shutdown,” Summers said. “We hope Republicans will ignore the tea party’s demands for a shutdown and join us in a responsible compromise.”

GOP leaders used the meeting as an opportunity to stress their talking points. Republicans have been castigating Senate Democrats for not passing their own spending bill and have been pinning the blame on them for a potential government shutdown.

House Republicans were marching in lock step with their leadership after Monday’s Conference meeting.

When asked what message he thought Boehner would deliver to Obama on Tuesday, Rep. Frank Guinta said, “I don’t think it’ll be any different than what he’s been saying.”

The New Hampshire Republican also blamed the standoff on the Senate, saying that it was unclear whether a government shutdown could be avoided. “It’s to be determined. It’s really up to the Senate,” Guinta said.

Rep. Scott Garrett agreed, arguing that Republicans have not moved from their position that the Senate must pass the House’s original $61 billion worth of cuts, as well as a host of policy riders that were included in the bill, which is numbered HR 1.

“We want to do HR 1. The Conference is still there, the Conference still wants to do the [$61 billion in cuts], the Conference still wants to keep the same policy positions,” the New Jersey Republican said.

Rep. Mike Simpson, an appropriator, said that the panel is “working on so many different alternatives” in the negotiations and that GOP leaders are doing “everything we can to avoid the government shutdown.”

“If it is shut down, it is because Harry Reid refuses to negotiate in good faith,” the Idaho Republican said.

A number of Republicans said it remains unclear whether the Conference will support another short-term CR if a deal on a longer-term bill is not reached by the end of the week.

“That is the $64,000 question,” Garrett said.

Simpson said he would be willing to support a short-term continuing resolution if it would keep the government running, if it included substantial funding reductions and if negotiators were making progress on a bill to finish out the fiscal year.

Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) said he was hopeful a government shutdown could be averted, adding, “My constituents don’t want the government shut down.”