Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Boehner are in constant contact, and Senate Republicans are expected to back the House GOP position as negotiated with Reid. The two Republican Conferences tend to agree on the overall amount of spending that would be cut. Given that House Republicans are in the majority, the Senate GOP has looked to them to write both the short-term and longer-term CR bills.
In a statement, McConnell announced his support for the two-week House CR and moved to put Senate Democrats on the defensive.
“There is now a clear path to finishing this short-term measure before the March 4th deadline,” McConnell said. “By supporting the House bill, our friends on the other side of the aisle will have the chance to ensure that the government remains operational while we work with them to identify additional ways to shrink Washington spending this year.”
In Wisconsin, state Senate Democrats fled the capital for an undisclosed location in Illinois last week to deny Gov. Scott Walker (R) and Republicans the quorum they needed to raise a bill that would — among other things — eliminate collective bargaining rights for pension and health care benefits for unionized state employees. Legislative Democrats in Indiana made a similar move to block a bill they disagreed with, as liberal activists planned rallies over the weekend in several other states.
Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans in Washington, D.C., have been fighting for several weeks over government spending and other fiscal issues, with the GOP pushing for significant cuts and most Democrats arguing for a freeze at current levels. Republicans are not expected to tie their arguments on the CR to the battles over unions in Wisconsin and other states. But Cantor on Friday acknowledged there are some philosophical similarities.
Cantor argued that, like House Republicans, governors are trying to “balance budgets and try and get the fiscal house in order. ... That’s what the debate in Wisconsin is about, that’s what this CR debate is about.” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who was elected on a campaign of lower spending and deficit reduction, said what happened in his home state could have a “positive spillover” effect on Washington.
“This really is the battle that we’re going to have to engage in on the state level as well as the federal level to rein in out-of-control spending and reduce these budget gaps,” Johnson said. “It’s a necessary fight.”
Republican strategist David Winston said there is deep public concern over fiscal matters, both in the states and at the federal level. In some cases, the issues intersect, while in others they do not, depending on the state in question.
Even though it appears to be unclear which political party would be harmed the most in the event of a government shutdown, Winston said surveys have shown at least one area of public sentiment is concrete. Voters want what they view as a fiscal crisis affecting the states and the federal government to be addressed in a meaningful way.
“What the public is looking for — and it doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat — is progress; make progress. Everyone is looking at this and realizing the demand from the electorate is, get it done; figure it out,” Winston said.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.