Reid Backs Mikulski on Shorter-Term CR (Updated)

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)
(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)
Posted September 24, 2013 at 2:03pm

Updated 2:39 p.m. | Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced Tuesday he would attempt to shorten the duration of the House-approved continuing resolution by a month, to Nov. 15, in order to leave time for a regular appropriations process this year.

The Nevada Democrat also called for Senate Republicans to cooperate on a procedural timeline so that the chamber could deal with whatever the House might pass next. He expects the stopgap spending bill to pingpong between the chambers, though a shorter stopgap bill might attract more House Democratic votes, making Speaker John A. Boehner’s job easier in clearing a bill through his chamber.

Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski outlined her pitch for a shorter-term stopgap bill Tuesday — a move that could make it easier for Democrats to accept a lower spending level than they would like.

“I’m looking for a clean CR, a short-term CR,” Mikulski said.

Mikulski added that in her view, a CR extending well into December would be too long, saying it puts matters on a glidepath to a full-year CR, keeping sequester in place, instead of an omnibus appropriations bill.

Mikulski continues to seek two years’ worth of replacement for the sequester in a final deal.

“We need right now a method to get there. The big thing that we’re concerned about, even if you get overall spending, unless you cancel sequester,  sequester is the current law of the land,” Mikulski said. “The number is negotiable. Do I want a higher number? Yes. Am I willing to negotiate and compromise? Yes. An I willing to capitulate? Not very likely.”

There’s no indication that Democratic leaders will seriously seek to increase the spending rate above the roughly $986 billion level that passed the House, despite some consternation among House Democrats.

House Democratic aides have signaled they might be more amenable to a shorter CR at the $986 billion level.

A senior Democratic aide cautioned Tuesday that no plan would be finalized before Senate Democrats discuss the matter together, and no decision is imminent. The vote to limit debate on just taking up the House-passed measure won’t take place until Wednesday, with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, expected to make a lengthy floor speech Tuesday that could run for hours.

The House is reserving judgment.

“We’ll deal with whatever the Senate passes when they pass it.  There’s no point in speculating before that,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner.

Meredith Shiner and Emma Dumain contributed to this report.