Updated 12:20 p.m.
As negotiations on funding the federal government continue in fits and starts ahead of an April 8 deadline, House Republican leaders on Wednesday announced that they plan to pressure the Senate by voting Friday on a measure that they have termed the “Government Shutdown Prevention Act.”
“What this bill says is it reiterates again the deadline, and that the Senate should act before the deadline, and that’s what the American people are expecting,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Wednesday morning at a news conference with other House Republican leaders. “The bill then says if the Senate does not act, then H.R. 1 [the House-passed bill that cuts $61 billion] will be the law of the land. In addition to that, it says that if all else fails, and the Senate brings about a shutdown, then members should not get their pay.”
Asked about Republicans’ “law of the land” claim, Jon Summers, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), noted that the measure would have to pass the Senate and be signed by the president in order to become law -- something that’s not likely to happen.
“Maybe while our office negotiates with Speaker [John] Boehner’s office, the rest of the people who aren’t in the room could focus on passing bills to create jobs and help struggling families, rather than focusing on a bill that, among other things, kills 700,000 jobs,” Summers said.
The House leaders’ gesture comes even as they are reaching out to moderate Democrats on financial issues, in part in an effort to avoid a shutdown. As the Washington Post’s Paul Kane reported Wednesday, the deal would involve more than $30 billion in cuts for the rest of this fiscal year, less than half the amount initially demanded by conservative freshmen Republicans, many elected with tea party support.
The Senate has already rejected H.R. 1, the House-passed bill that would cut $61 billion from current spending levels; it received only 44 votes earlier this month. President Obama has also stated that he would veto the measure were it to reach his desk.
Asked about how a measure facing such Democratic opposition -- and having passed only one chamber — could be deemed the “law of the land,” Cantor responded: “We are trying to say this: We have not had any indication that the Senate is interested in changing the status quo. We’re about trying to cut spending here. We’re about trying to demonstrate to the American people again and again the Republican House has said, look, come work with us. Cut spending. Again, there’s two options here. Either you’re going to keep spending the way you are and you’ve got to raise taxes, so if that’s the case, show us your tax-increase plan. If not, join us in cutting spending.”
Senate Democrats countered Wednesday by noting that the amount of cuts they have offered is roughly the same as the amount that House Republican leaders had sought earlier this year, before conservatives in the party pushed the number higher.
“Now that Democrats have offered Republicans a deal at roughly the same levels that they endorsed last month, will Republicans take yes for an answer?” Senate Democrats asked in a news release. “Or will they bow to Tea Party demands again?”
The GOP measure would be a symbolic means for House Republicans to demonstrate that they have passed a bill while the Senate hasn’t. (Worth noting is the fact that in earlier budget talks, all sides had agreed that the Senate would vote on both H.R. 1 and a Senate Democratic plan – knowing that both would fail – in order to give party leaders leverage to go back to their caucuses and push for a compromise measure.)
A summary of the new House Republican measure issued Wednesday morning states that:
1) The bill provides that if the Senate fails to pass a measure before April 6, 2011 providing for the appropriations of the departments and agencies of the Government for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, H.R. 1 (as passed by the House on Feb. 19, 2011) becomes law.
2) It also provides that, in the event of a government shutdown in excess of 24 hours or the limitation on the debt of the United States being reached, no salary payments will be disbursed to members of Congress or the president for days on which that condition persists.
On the second point, the Senate passed a resolution earlier this month that would have the same effect.
Last month, Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) sponsored the House version of the bill, dubbed the “Government Shutdown Fairness Act.” The measure had 17 co-sponsors as of Wednesday, including 16 Democrats and one Republican.