On Tuesday, the House rejected a plan introduced by Republican leaders to approve funding for several politically popular government programs — veterans, national parks, and the city of Washington itself. That plan is getting a second chance on Wednesday, promising similar drama, even as it seems likely that the real fight will be a mega-battle over the budget and the debt ceiling.
We talked about the "mini-CR" plan when it was first discussed as a possibility. "CR" is short for continuing resolution, which usually refers to the funding resolutions passed by Congress in order to fund the entire government. In this case, though, the CRs would only cover a subset of government. (Hence: "mini.") It's a smart political move for Republicans, who can get their Democratic colleagues on the record as voting against veterans and against national parks.
And vote against the idea they did, given that President Obama has said he'd veto them anyway, and the Senate would be unlikely to pass them at all. At right, as BuzzFeed's Kate Nocera points out, at least one member of Congress is having a busy morning explaining his vote to constituents (and probably more than a few Twitter trolls). Because the measures needed a two-thirds majority to pass, having skipped the regular Rules Committee process, Democrats were able to submarine them. On Wednesday, having gone through the slower Rules process, it will get another vote, and likely pass.
But not without tension. Tuesday's vote saw an unusual alliance form between the non-voting delegate for Washington, D.C., and House Republicans, a pairing that doesn't happen on many issues. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton gave an impassioned, furious speech (at right) insisting that Democrats set aside their uniform objection to any non-comprehensive funding bill so that the city can get the money it needs to function. "Don't dare compare us to your appropriations!" she railed. Joining that cause was Rep. Darrell Issa of California, who has long been an advocate for some form of autonomy for the district. That tension and frustration will certainly re-appear at the second vote — as will the political fight over national monuments prompted by an organic protest from veterans on the National Mall on Tuesday. That protest has renewed in the enthusiastic embrace of House conservatives.
There are increasing signs, though, that this won't matter. Reports suggest that both Democrats and Republicans would rather resolve the shutdown at the same time that Congress approves in increase to the debt ceiling, the limit on government borrowing that will cause the country to default on its existing bills if not raised within the next few weeks. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent explains.
As one [Democratic aide] put it to me: ”We are less than two weeks away from the deadline. If we were not having this shutdown fight, this is the week we would be moving a debt ceiling bill.” A second said: “It doesn’t make much sense to do a short term CR only to have to turn around and do it again with the debt ceiling.”
Needless to say, if it comes to this, the stakes in this battle will escalate dramatically — and the pressure on Republicans will intensify.
But that fight is what Speaker John Boehner has been advocating for weeks. As we noted last month, Boehner always wanted to couple the budget fight with the debt ceiling, recognizing that the latter, posing a much larger risk to the economy, offered a better chance for Republicans to extract concessions from the president. This is, in part, why the president has continually said he won't negotiate over the debt ceiling; the effects of defaulting on existing obligations is so severe that he will not include the idea as a pawn in the chess game. The Democrats want everything passed at once without any concessions; the Republicans, as The National Review's Robert Costa notes, see the ceiling as a necessary moment for and component of negotiations.
and Boehner may feel more comfortable letting shutdown extend to next wk, when debt-limit talks are expected to start as impasse continues— Robert Costa (@robertcostaNRO) October 2, 2013
To which Obama advisor Dan Pfeiffer responded:
@robertcostaNRO why do they think there will be debt limit talks?— Dan Pfeiffer (@pfeiffer44) October 2, 2013
The odds that this all resolves shortly are low.