Speaker John Boehner is under increasing pressure from his right flank to hold firm on a $61 billion spending cut in any final, long-term spending deal with Democrats.
House conservatives are becoming increasingly bullish about how much federal spending could be cut in a final, long-term continuing resolution, creating additional pressure for GOP leaders trying to reach a deal with Democrats.
More than a dozen Republican Members this week reiterated their support for the six-month House bill that cuts $61 billion in federal spending. And they said they may not back a compromise with Senate Democrats and the White House that calls for smaller reductions. If too many Republicans dig in, and no deal is reached, the government would shut down April 9.
“Sixty-one billion is a compromise,” Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) said Wednesday. “I’m not going to go below that. The American people are depending on us cutting the size and scope of the federal government.”
The conservatives’ position is keeping the heat on GOP leaders who are hoping to negotiate a budget compromise before April 8 when the current CR expires. Broun was among the 129 members of the Republican Study Committee who agreed to back that last CR.
Congressional negotiators appear to be moving closer to a deal, but neither side has claimed victory. Senate Democrats and the White House said this week that the two sides are about $6 billion apart; House Republican leaders have largely stayed mum.
On Wednesday, 39 freshmen delivered a letter to Reid calling on the Senate to pass a long-term CR and come to the negotiating table. At the same time, GOP leaders vowed to take up a measure this week that would make the $61 billion spending-cut measure the default plan if the Senate fails to act by April 6. That bill is symbolic at best because the Senate would not pass it, nor would President Barack Obama sign it.
“We passed a CR that funds the government through the end of the fiscal year, so the Senate’s got to do it,” Rep. John Shimkus said.
“They haven’t done it yet. The Senate, they’ve got to put up or shut up,” the Illinois Republican said.
The heat isn’t just on Senate Democrats, however.
GOP leaders are feeling pressure to stand firm on the final number from their rank and file and the outside. A rally by the conservative Tea Party Patriots will be held at the Capitol today.
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) predicted Republicans would “stick pretty strong” to forcing $61 billion in cuts, while Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) said, “H.R. 1 is definitely our bill and certainly what we want to see accomplished.”
While the final figure is important, Kingston said controversial social riders to cut funding for health care reform and Planned Parenthood must also be included in a final product. “There are some things that we have to be able to go back to our base and say we got a victory, not just a mathematical accomplishment,” he said. “You can compromise on the math a lot easier if the riders survive.”
Although Democrats have said those riders are non-starters, GOP negotiators are hoping to keep some in the final package to appease their right flank.
“I think you are going to continue to see House Republicans dig in and fight for a fundamental change of direction,” Rep. Mike Pence said. The Indiana Republican authored language in H.R. 1 that would end federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
“Nobody wants to shut down the government, but if we don’t take a stand for fiscal discipline, we are going to shut down the future for our children and grandchildren.”
Rep. Lee Terry said that over the Congressional recess last week, his constituents urged him to quit compromising, even if that results in a government shutdown.
“They said: ‘Why are you worrying about a shutdown? You should just be focused on cutting,’” the Nebraska Republican said. “I was, frankly, taken aback by how much I heard it.”
Terry said he relayed that sentiment to leadership.
Republican moderates have been far less strident in their rhetoric but appear to be on board with their leadership’s strategy heading into a final deal.
Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio), a Tuesday Group member and ally of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said moderates like him “are pretty much on board with what the leadership is doing.”
“As far as the strategy the leadership has laid out for the CR, which is to reaffirm H.R. 1 and up the ante to indicate that it’s time for the Senate to come up with something, if it leads to a problem and the Congress doesn’t get paid and the president doesn’t get paid, I’m OK with that, and the Tuesday Groupers are OK with that too,” he said.
Still, LaTourette said he hoped the 54 Republicans who voted against the last short-term CR “will reconsider their position” so GOP leaders don’t have to go searching for votes on the Democratic aisle if and when a deal is struck.
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy met with conservative Democrats after the last short-term CR was approved and discussed areas where they could work together. But on Wednesday, the California Republican tamped down media accounts suggesting that he’s looking to the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition to come up with the votes to pass a final package.
“For us to rely on Democrats to get us to 218 is not a great strategy,” LaTourette said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.