In a significant de-escalation of partisan brinksmanship on Capitol Hill, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is asking his members not to push for further cuts to discretionary spending in the wake of the debt limit agreement.
“While all of us would like to have seen a lower discretionary appropriations ceiling for the upcoming fiscal year, the debt limit agreement did set a level of spending that is a real cut from the current year level,” Cantor wrote in a Wednesday memo to House Republicans. “I believe it is in our interest to enact into law full-year appropriations bills at this new lower level.”
This essentially eliminates one of three potential impasses that, if not bridged, would lead to a government shutdown. The other two are specific appropriations — which government programs should receive what level of funding — and extraneous policy riders, meant to tie the Obama administrations hands at the helm of the executive branch.
Earlier this year, all three of those turned into points of contention. Republicans initially demanded an overall $100 billion cut to non-defense discretionary spending. They wanted those reductions to fall disproportionately on programs liberals and Democrats value. And they wanted all federal agency funding to be contingent on the White House agreeing to scores of legal and regulatory restrictions on their governing authority.
The fight took the government to the brink of shutdown, and, indeed, Republican rank and file agita over House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) willingness to negotiate back from the $100 billion demand nearly resulted in a replay of the ‘95-‘96 lapse in funding for federal programs.
Citing the debt limit’s statutory requirement for billions in cuts in fiscal year 2012, Cantor has essentially taken that particular bone off the table. That doesn’t mean the other two won’t bring us to the same point at the end of September.
“[W]e must put an end to the policy uncertainty constantly being driven by this Administration. That means stopping the constant threat of new regulations that add unnecessary costs to employers,” Cantor added.
Get the day’s best political analysis, news and reporting from the TPM team delivered to your inbox every day with DayBreaker. Sign up here, it takes just a few seconds.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.