On Friday, the Republican House leadership introduced another continuing resolution to keep the government operating after March 18, when the current CR expires. Freshmen House members balked at the prospect of piecemeal budgeting, but the bill seems certain to pass:
Republican leaders are trying to calm down a handful of House Tea Party freshmen and fiscal conservatives who are losing patience with all the short-term extensions. Some potential GOP rebels have threatened to oppose the CR to force a fight with Democrats over the rest of the year’s spending plan right now.
But after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., met with the freshmen yesterday, most of the threats subsided and leadership sources are confident the House will pass the measure on Tuesday. GOP leaders are particularly irked by Republicans Steve King of Iowa and Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota. The two have tried repeatedly to persuade the leadership to include provisions in the CR that would strip some $105 billion in implementation funds for the president’s health-care reform overhaul. The GOP-controlled Rules Committee has repeatedly ruled their proposed amendments to rescind that money out of order.
A House leadership adviser tells me, “We hope to pocket the savings for the CR and negotiate a long term [agreement] during the three-week period we have. We will have other toll booths for the debt limit. Note that we are moving a bunch of non-entitlement mandatory spending cuts on the floor. We want those to be part of the debt limit discussions, along with process reforms.”
Conservative senators, however, are not entirely pleased. The notion of running government in two- or three-week increments also has some conservative senators grumbling. Others contend that by forcing the Democrats to agree to short-term extensions the Republicans are slowly winning the spending fight.
The latter group focuses on results. One adviser tells me that this one CR will lead to greater spending cuts over the next three weeks than Democrats in the Senate want to do over the remainder of the fiscal year.
It may be that the battle over the 2011 budget (yes, still being fought in March) will come to a head over the debt ceiling limit. On Fox News Sunday Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) explained why he believes that the CR is a good idea:
I don’t think we ought to let the government shut down. There are — I think it’s going to include about $6 billion in cuts. So, we’re on a path, a slow path but a path nevertheless, to get to the $61 billion in reductions of this year’s spending that House Republicans were able to send over to us. So, I think it should pass and will pass.
But then the real fight is teed up:
[W]e have a $14 trillion debt, $14 trillion. That’s the size of our economy, which begins to make us look a lot like Greece. Over and above that, we have over $50 trillion in commitments we have made that we cannot keep on entitlement programs. Very popular programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.
We aren’t doing anything to bend the curve. Raising the debt ceiling is the perfect opportunity to do something important about the subject being raised by raising the debt ceiling, which is our debt. And so what I’ve said is that I don’t intend to support raising the debt ceiling and I don’t believe any Senate Republicans do, unless we do something important related to spending and debt.
Meanwhile, the White House is doing precisely nothing. Come to think of it, President Obama is doing nothing on the budget, nothing on Libya, nothing on promoting domestic energy development and nothing on entitlement reform. It is not simply that Obama is reducing America’s role in the world; it is that he is shrinking his own presidency. I guess he imagines slothful governance will those independent voters back.