Yet another government shutdown looms. At the end of the week, the current “continuing resolution” will run out. The government can’t run without Congress’ authorization to spend money, so House Republicans are negotiating with Senate Democrats and the president about what comes next.
In 1995, Republicans took most of the political blame when there was a shutdown, so the consensus is that they would take the blame if it happened again. But many in the new class of House Republicans are Tea Partiers committed to controlling spending and the deficit. They put House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) in a bind because he can’t compromise too far with Democrats or he’ll lose Tea Party votes and make Republicans look uncommitted to their fiscal principles.
In an effort to protect themselves politically, on Friday House Republicans passed a bill called “The Government Shutdown Prevention Act of 2011.” The bill would deem H.R. 1, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011, to be passed if the Senate doesn’t pass spending legislation for the rest of the fiscal year by Wednesday, April 6th. Now, H.R. 1255 doesn’t have any effect without the Senate passing it and the president signing it, so its real purpose is to point out that the House has passed bills to fund the government—twice, now—and the Senate hasn’t passed any. Who knows if that message will work.
Currently, there appears to be a deal in the works to cut another $33 billion from current spending levels. That’s down from the $61 billion that was under discussion earlier. House budget hawks might not go for this smaller cut.
One recently released poll says that most Americans would be OK with a government shutdown if it meant a bigger cut in spending. Will that cause Republicans to take a stronger line? That’s another one that remains to be seen.
The Washington Post‘s PostPolitics blog has a pretty good piece on government shutdowns . . . except for some really bad word choices in this line:
The White House and congressional leaders are working on a deal that would slash about $33 billion from the federal budget, including $10 billion already cut by two other short-term measures, amounting to the largest reductions in U.S. history.
“Slash”? Really? Largest reduction in U.S. history?
This cut would be less than 1% of the budget, and there have been many cuts of greater than 1% in the past. A chart produced by the Cato Institute this week puts some of these numbers in perspective (disclosure: Cato is where I work by day).
Here’s the current vote on H.R. 1255, the Government Shutdown Prevention Act of 2011. Click to vote, comment, learn more, or edit the wiki article about the bill.