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As the fight over how to fund the federal government through the end of September enters its ninth week, House Republicans are fatigued with the bitter war and are increasingly vocal about how other crucial issues are going unattended.
GOP lawmakers and aides said that while they are not ready to abandon the fight over a six-month continuing resolution, they are nevertheless itching to take up other issues, including a new budget bill, the debt limit, gas prices and the situation in Libya.
Lawmakers said the biggest problem has been the all-encompassing nature of negotiations on the CR, which has monopolized Congress’ time and limited the GOP’s ability to pursue its broader agenda.
“I think focusing on the CR is just one part of it,” Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said. “We also have the budget resolution that will take a longer-term, more systemic approach to the budget.”
Rep. Tim Scott, a freshman member of GOP leadership, agreed, saying the CR debate cannot be a defining moment for House Republicans.
“I don’t know that this is a defining moment for anyone,” the South Carolina lawmaker said. “We haven’t even gotten to the whole budget, and we haven’t had the debt limit vote. We’re heading toward defining moments, but we aren’t there.”
Aides pointed to last week’s closed-door Conference meeting as evidence that CR fatigue has set in. Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) and other Members spoke at length about the ongoing CR discussions. But after opening the meeting to comments from rank-and-file Members, instead of being peppered with questions or comments on the spending talks, the bulk of the remarks were on Libya.
“We need to be devoting some time to exploring this. ... At some point we need to look at, are we going to be so focused on funding through Sept. 30, or do we need to look at ‘Did the president just commit us to a third theater?’” one aide said, adding that gas prices and the larger budget need attention as well.
Energy issues also have been pushed to the back burner, despite pressure from constituents to address soaring gas prices, as well as the work being done by the Energy and Commerce Committee. That panel has tackled a range of issues in hearings, covering everything from consumer product safety to the health care overhaul to nuclear safety in the wake of the tragedy in Japan.
“Some of their work is being overshadowed by the CR debate,” a senior aide said.