The still-evolving debate over funding the government is contentious enough that it could devolve into a government shutdown fight, despite public claims to the contrary by leaders of both parties.
Case in point: Speaker John Boehner is pressing the Senate to adopt a new House bill to fund the government without making any changes to it, despite Democratic objections to it.
“Our goal is to cut spending, not to shut down the government,” he told reporters at a Capitol press briefing Tuesday. “That’s why we’re going to move the CR [continuing resolution] this week and we would hope that the Senate would take this bill up and move it quickly. The president on Friday agreed that there’s no reason to get into some debate about shutting down the government. It’s just not a smart thing to do.”
House and Senate Democrats don’t approve of the measure as currently written. House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told reporters Tuesday that leaders aren’t whipping against it “at this time,” suggesting Boehner will need to pass it, as he hopes to later this week, on the strength of Republican votes. Assuming it clears the House, though, Senate Democrats might amend it to address some of their objections and return it to the House for final passage. Those changes could cost Boehner Republican votes, and force him to choose once again between abandoning his rank and file and risking a government shutdown.
But in the wake of House passage of the Violence Against Women Act, which succeeded on the strength of Democratic votes, Boehner says he doesn’t have much of appetite left for bucking his conference.
“It’s not a practice I would expect to continue long-term.”
Funding for the government expires on March 27 — so there’s still time for the parties to sort out their differences. But there are plenty of obstacles ahead.
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.