Now that John Boehner is forfeiting the House speakership, it looks like there won’t be a government shutdown — at least not yet.
Republicans said Thursday that the House will vote next week on a stop-gap spending bill to fund the government after Sept. 30, without the controversial language that would defund Planned Parenthood.
Dozens of House Republicans acknowledged the plan on Friday after the closed-door meeting where Boehner (R-Ohio) made the bombshell announcement that he’ll resign as speaker at the end of October. The strategy all but ensures there will be no imminent shutdown and leaves any future budget battles in the hands of new leadership.
But the temporary stand-down doesn’t mean the larger crisis is over. The spending bill will likely keep the government funded through Dec. 11, but at that point, the whole battle could replay itself. Conservatives are already pressing for a new speaker who is more responsive to their demands. While the fight over Planned Parenthood is the most public between Boehner and the right-wing of his party, many conservatives are also still angry that Boehner would consider negotiating with Democrats to add spending increases to the budget.
“Everybody has been kind of focusing on the Planned Parenthood issue, which I think is incredibly important, but I think it’s almost been a ruse to try to shift attention away from lifting the spending caps,” said Rep. Matt Salmon, (R-Ariz.)
Asked if his vote for the next speaker is dependent on a candidate committing to keep the spending caps, Salmon was emphatic:
“Absolutely,” he said. “It will be front-and-center.”
On Thursday after a meeting with leadership on plans to avert a shutdown Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, again called for a vote on a conservative budget. The group of more than 170 Republicans is not satisfied with plans to negotiate a long-term budget deal that includes spending hikes.
“The Senate’s CR reads like [Senate Minority Leader] Harry Reid’s wish list, and the House must amend it to achieve our policy objectives,” Flores said. “We will aggressively pursue a vote on the Responsible Spending and Accountability Act, our bold, long-term plan to fund the government within current budget caps, strengthen our national security and hold President Obama accountable.”
Even with Boehner’s stepping aside, some conservatives predicted that a number of them would oppose next week’s bill — known as a “clean continuing resolution” or CR — to keep the government open.
“We know there’s going to be Republicans who vote against it. We know that number will probably be such that it will require Democrats to pass it,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.). “The only real question is, how many Republicans ultimately vote against a clean CR that funds Planned Parenthood? The numbers I’ve heard are between 50 and 120.”
Other conservatives embraced plans to avoid a shutdown on Friday.
“The commitment has been made that there will not be any way that a shutdown will occur,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.).
But many, like Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), said the leadership shakeup creates an opportunity.
“This is a great day for conservatives who want to see changes in Washington,” Huelskamp told CNBC. “It’s time to elect a conservative that’s actually gonna work with conservatives.”
Some Republicans are speculating that Boehner’s lame-duck status could free his hand to act on other measures that have bipartisan support but are despised by hard-line conservatives.
Those measures could include an reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, an extension of the federal debt ceiling, or a long-term highway bill. All of them have been opposed by the same conservatives who have pushed for Boehner’s ouster.
“He gets a chance to really go out on a high note and now I think you’ll see a few things in October,” said Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio). “I expect to see a very busy month in October.”
Mulvaney said Boehner’s resignation “probably” makes it more likely Ex-Im or a debt ceiling extension moves forward. But he warned that it might not be so simple.
“They have to pass rules in order to accomplish that,” he said. “There’s a good rule of thumb: If you’re counting on Democrats to pass a piece of legislation, you better count on them to pass a rule.”
In order to keep the government open, the House is expected to next week consider a spending bill similar to the one brought up by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), which funds the government through Dec. 11. The Senate is expected to pass their version on Monday and the House could then take up that bill on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Boehner and other House leaders hoped to mollify 31 conservatives who signed a letter vowing to oppose any spending bill that includes funding for Planned Parenthood. Fleming said that the next step will be for the House to start work on a budget reconciliation bill that would defund both Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act.
Reconciliation bills — which are a joint effort between the House and Senate — are considered under special rules that require only a simple majority for approval, and cannot be filibustered in the Senate. The reconciliation bill is expected to easily pass Congress, allowing Republicans to force President Obama to veto the legislation.
Even if that happens, the move would ensure the debate over abortion policy remains a priority in Congress and in the media.
But any future negotiations would likely fall to the next House speaker. House and the Senate Republican leaders say that a short-term spending bill is just one part of a process that would lift deep-cutting spending caps that were put in place as part of the 2011 Budget Control Act, known as the sequester.
Those talks have not yet begun. Democrats are already insisting that Boehner’s resignation not stall the process. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters on Friday that she would like the details of a long-term budget and spending agreement, including how much spending will be increased and how those increases would be offset, in place before Thanksgiving.
“He is the speaker until he gives up the gavel so we will continue to negotiate with Speaker Boehner,” Pelosi said. “We had been on a path that enabled the Republican caucus to work its will, the House to work its will and the Congress to work its will to keep government open so we can move forward.”
Many expect House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to succeed Boehner. McCarthy is a close Boehner ally and would likely continue the negotiations that are already underway, but House conservatives could still pressure future leaders to be more accommodating of their demands.
That pressure for a future speaker to respond to the demands of far-right groups within the party could risk any chance of a bipartisan negotiation later this year.
For now House Republicans are focused on keeping the government open through the end of this month. And there’s general agreement that a shutdown will not happen in the coming days.
“I think we have a good positive strategy moving forward,” said National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.).
When asked how the reconciliation process would impact a future budget debate, Walden would only say that that Boehner’s planned resignation is a chance for Republicans to unite.
“We need to pull together and show the American people we can govern while we investigate abuses wherever they occur in the government and focus on moving forward,” he said.
While Boehner’s resignation was a surprise to nearly all Republicans, he began informing members of his plan to use reconciliation to defund Planned Parenthood in a series of meetings on Thursday. He gathered members of the conservative Freedom Caucus, and later a group of anti-abortion rights advocates to detail the plan.
Several members reiterated their support for Boehner in those meetings and gave no indication that that Boehner should resign if he wanted their support for his strategy.
“I told him in front of my colleagues in the Freedom Caucus yesterday that I would support him,” Ribble said on Friday after Boehner’s announcement.
Others, including Mulvaney , said they would still not support any spending bill that contains funding for the embattled women’s health organization
But Democrats have said they will vote for the clean bill, ensuring that it will pass even if a large number of Republicans revolt. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters on Wednesday that Democrat would likely support a clean CR, a position repeated by Pelosi on Friday.
Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.