House Republicans are attaching controversial cuts and policy measures to legislation required to run the biggest domestic department in the federal government, and if they don’t back off there will likely be, you guessed it, another government shutdown fight.
Already, Democrats in both chambers are saying a draft of the House’s Labor/Health and Human Services appropriations bill is dead on arrival, because it contains deep cuts to heating assistance for the poor, requires the repeal of a major provision of the health care law that will help provide assistance for disabled people, halts implementation of the entire law until the Supreme Court determines the constitutionality of its individual insurance mandate, and slashes Planned Parenthood and public broadcasting. Just for starters.
A Senate Dem aide familiar with appropriations issues weighs in with the following statement.
“Members of the House have introduced more than 3,000 bills so far this Congress,” the aide said. “This is one of them,” he continued.
“Until [House Appropriations Subcommittee] Chairman Rehberg can muster enough support on his subcommittee to get his draft bill through a markup, that’s all it is - a bill that’s been introduced by a member of the House. Even if he did succeed in marking up the bill, it has no chance of passing the Senate. The Senate will not agree to kicking hundreds of thousands of students out of the Pell Grant program, decimating programs that train unemployed workers to get a new job, or adopting any of the dozens of radical legislative riders that the Chairman has proposed.”
During the debt limit deal, House Republicans and Senate Democrats agreed on an overall funding level for the federal government, much to the dismay of House conservatives who wanted to slash even more deeply into federal programs. But as laid out here, that left the GOP with two sources of leverage: how to allocate the money to various programs, and policy riders restricting executive branch powers.
The idea, again, is that if Democrats don’t agree to at least some of this stuff, and the appropriations bills don’t pass by late November, there could be a partial or complete government shutdown. Less than a week after Republicans backed off a separate shutdown flashpoint, they’ve found a new one.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.