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House Leaders Seize on Ted Cruz’s Idea to End Shutdown (Updated)

Updated 4:23 p.m. | The House will vote Tuesday evening on three bills to reopen various government programs that were shuttered when appropriations lapsed less than 24 hours ago.

One will allow veterans to continue receiving benefits, one will fund daily operation of national parks and museums and one will give the District of Columbia the authority to spend its own funds in the absence of congressional authorization.

The suite of bills is part of a larger plan GOP leaders unveiled on Tuesday afternoon wherein Congress can ensure certain key government functions remain operational — without conceding on a full continuing resolution that doesn’t defund or delay certain provisions of the 2010 health care law.

Though Republican aides said the idea did not originate in the other chamber, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, floated the idea on Monday.

The substance and sequence of all these bills has not yet been determined, but they are not expected to include extraneous policy riders regarding Obamacare. All of the mini-CRs would go to Dec. 15 and would fund agencies at the same sequester level as proposed under the comprehensive CR that the chambers have been battling over for the past week and a half.

Democratic votes will be needed for passage, however, considering a two-thirds majority is needed for bills on the suspension calendar. And so far, that support isn’t guaranteed.

“The House majority apparently can’t take the heat from the fire they lit,” said Appropriations Committee ranking member Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., in a statement. “Why is opening parks more important than ensuring seniors, poor mothers and children have access to meals and critical services? Ending the shutdown couldn’t be more simple — stop playing games and pass the reasonable bill the Senate and the White House have already agreed to.”

Though House Democrats will likely be challenged for “no” votes against non-controversial measures that help veterans and reopen museums to the nation’s tourists, Lowey’s arguments against the strategy suggests that lawmakers will be able to frame their opposition around the House GOP’s apparent “picking and choosing.”

Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., confirmed that this new plan was, in part, political: funding the IRS and the Environmental Protection Agency, he said, were at the bottom of the GOP’s list for reopening.

Senate Democrats have already rejected the approach, saying they want the entire government to be funded.

“We just decided in there we’re not going to do that,” Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said after leaving Tuesday’s Senate Democratic Conference meeting.

White House spokesman Jay Carney also ripped the idea as “not serious.”

“If they want to open the government, they should open the government,” Carney said.

 Niels Lesniewski and Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

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