House Republicans have dropped their demands to cut spending on domestic programs, for the time being, and instead unveiled bipartisan legislation to keep the government funded through the end of the year at previously-agreed-upon levels.
The legislation, introduced this week by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY), represents a shift in the GOP’s posture since taking over the House in January 2011. They have routinely used must-pass bills as a vehicle to advance budgetary goals, risking multiple government shutdowns and even a U.S. default.
But with the election less than two months away, Republicans recognize that touching off another showdown would be too politically dangerous. Senate Democrats have insisted for months that Republicans honor funding levels they agreed to in last year’s debt limit deal and have made clear they won’t budge from those numbers.
“I’m deeply disappointed that the House and Senate were unable to complete Appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year,” Rogers said in a statement. “Unfortunately, with the Senate’s inaction and election-year politics in play, our committee’s bills will not be negotiated before the end of the fiscal year, and therefore a temporary funding Band-Aid is necessary to prevent a government shutdown.”
“However, while important, this bill essentially punts on the core duty of Congress to complete its annual Appropriations and budget work,” he said.
The legislation reflects a late July agreement between House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), and backed by President Obama. But Boehner and Reid the agreement was finalized only shortly before Congress adjourned for August recess, and Congress couldn’t act on it until this week.
“This stop-gap measure will keep the government operating at a rate consistent with what we agreed to in last year’s bipartisan Budget Control Act,” said Appropriations Ranking Member Norm Dicks (D-WA) “As I’ve said all along, it was inevitable that we would return here and I regret that we spent the greater portion of this year considering appropriations bills that didn’t comply with that hard fought agreement.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.