Top congressional Republicans are plotting ways to avoid a government shutdown fight when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, believing the partisan brinkmanship that defined last year’s budget battles would be devastating to their party heading into the November elections.
In early September, House Republican leaders want to pass a three-month temporary funding measure that sticks to last year’s debt-limit agreement, according to aides involved with the planning. But that could spark a fight with some House and Senate conservatives who yearn for the lower funding numbers in Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget.
“I think somebody does need to stand up and bring it all to a screeching halt,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). “I’m not talking about shutting down the government but having a real debate over spending cuts.”
But while higher spending levels might irk conservatives who are itching for a funding fight, it’s aimed at comforting Republicans in both chambers who see political peril in drawing attention away from the economy with a battle that could shut down the government. They’d like for the fight to end quietly this year in the hopes a Republican sweep in November would allow them to freely rewrite spending bills in early 2013.
And in a sign that the politics of the upcoming round of spending are shifting, GOP leaders now have a key ally on their side: Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), the tea party leader who has been a frequent critic of his party’s budget dealings. DeMint, along with Sen. (R-S.C.), are urging House Speaker John Boehner to pass a short-term continuing resolution before the August recess to avoid a lame-duck session of Congress, believing Democrats could use the threat of a shutdown to force the GOP to cave on a host of policy issues.
“I believe unless the Republicans in the House send us a [continuing resolution] that goes past the lame duck at the budget control levels, then we got a problem with leadership in the House,” DeMint told POLITICO. “In September, we’ve got three weeks before the government shuts down. And I’m tired being up here and they put our backs against the wall or the government will shut down. Republicans need to make clear that we don’t want anything to do with a government shutdown. We are going to fund the government at the Budget Control Act levels, even though I think they’re too high.”
Even with DeMint’s support, House Republican leadership could still face some resistance in the ranks.