Democrats and Republicans will spend most of the week spinning each others’ 10-year budget blueprints.
As they relitigate a debate that was supposed to have been resolved by voters in November, a more pressing and concrete negotiation will unfold. And the question now is whether rank and file Republicans can take yes for an answer.
Late Monday, Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Richard Shelby (R-AL) — the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee — introduced consensus legislation to fund the government after March 27, when its budget authority expires.
The legislation meets nearly all of the GOP’s demands. It updates defense spending protocols much more thoroughly than it modernizes domestic programs. It ignores Obama administration requests for funding for specific priorities, including $1 billion to implement the Affordable Care Act’s state-based insurance markets. And, per House Republican demands, it denies the administration’s agency heads the authority to redirect spending, in order to ease the crunch of sequestration.
In other words, it complies with House Speaker John Boehner’s edict that the Senate not make dramatic changes to the appropriations measure the House passed last week.
“Chairwoman Mikulski and I began this process with three shared goals: first, to prevent a government shutdown; second, to provide as much flexibility as possible for the remainder of this fiscal year; and third, to produce a bill that both parties in both houses can support,” Shelby said. “I believe that we have achieved all three goals. At a time when many doubt whether Congress can accomplish anything at all, this agreement is a very clear demonstration of our commitment to work together.”
That brings Congress one step closer to avoiding a government shutdown. But conservatives have been clamoring for Republicans to use the spending bill as a vehicle to cut funding for ACA implementation. If that clamor continues to grow, the bill will face an uncertain path to final passage when it returns to the House.
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.