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Earnest Squeezes Ryan on Omnibus, December Shutdown

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Obama administration put a bit of pressure on Speaker Paul D. Ryan Tuesday, suggesting he wouldn’t want a government shutdown just weeks after taking the House gavel.  

The White House has “a lot of confidence” that lawmakers will avoid sinking a year-end omnibus spending measure and possibly causing a government shutdown with controversial policy riders, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.  

If that confidence was shaken after Ryan told reporters on Tuesday morning he will not rule out policy riders as Appropriations Committee leaders begin building the year-end spending bill, Earnest did not show it.  

“We fully expect we’re going to exercise that power,” Ryan said, regarding the legislative branch’s constitutional power of the purse.  

Ryan’s predecessor, John A. Boehner, struck a two-year budget agreement with congressional Democratic leaders and the White House before he left office last week. Both chambers passed the deal in Boehner’s final days and Obama signed it Monday.  

Ryan Outlines Appropriations Strategy 

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While much has been made about the return of deal-making to the nation’s capital, now comes the hard part. Congressional leaders have until Dec. 11 to send Obama an omnibus spending measure that fills in the details of the budget pact’s framework. But Democratic members already are warning any hot-button policy riders slipped in by Republicans could trigger another shutdown.  

After all, as Stan Collender, a former aide on the House and Senate Budget committees, notes: “Ryan will have to pull the House Republican Conference to the right on most issues to appease his ultra-conservative hardliners who have little-to-no reason to compromise and have nothing invested in his success as speaker.”  

“As they’ve shown three times with ex-Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., former Speaker Boehner and current Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.,” Collender wrote in a recent blog post , “these members would rather revolt against their leaders than negotiate on major (or even many minor) issues.”  

If the group’s next revolt is an attempt to sink the omnibus already under construction on Capitol Hill, that could hand Ryan a politically damaging government shutdown cooked up inside his very own GOP “big tent.”  

At least for now, White House officials are publicly betting against that.  

“My suspicion is that Speaker Ryan does not want to preside over a government shutdown six weeks into his new job,” Earnest told reporters, with a grin.  

Related: Ryan Leaves Door Open to Policy Riders in Spending Bill See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call’s new video site. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

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