September's continuing resolution might keep the government funded through Nov. 18, but the first signs of yet another ugly shutdown showdown are already starting to appear.
With overall funding levels set, round four of the 2011 government shutdown fight isn't expected to center on conservatives' effort to cut more spending. Instead, in the House and Senate, Republicans are gearing up for a far more traditional battle over policy riders ranging from abortion to farm dust.
"Conservatives such as myself will be looking for every opportunity to advance good policy," Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) said Thursday.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) agreed, saying, "I think if you're looking for a guide as to what riders we're looking for, it's the same things we tried to attach to H.R. 1 in the spring," referring to the House budget resolution that attracted hundreds of contentious amendments.
A senior Senate Democratic aide said some Republicans, particularly in the House, might be tempted to add policy riders to the upcoming spending bills, which could threaten Democratic support.
But the aide hopes that ultimately a compromise can be reached.
"The appropriations bills are not the place for them to act out on their anti-regulatory zeal," the aide said. "It's not the forum to make policy."
"We realize that the House has to go through a process where they calm down extreme elements in their caucus ... but policy riders almost never make it into the final product," the aide continued.
The first salvo in the rider war will likely come from the Senate, where conservatives are preparing a series of amendments to the minibus spending bills being considered.
The Senate last week began considering a package of three of the 12 annual spending bills — Agriculture, rural development, and Food and Drug Administration; Commerce, Justice and science; and Transportation and Housing and Urban Development — an effort to reduce the measures that will likely have to be rolled into a catchall package Congress will need to finish fiscal 2012 appropriations.
"We are working on an amendment list," a senior Democratic aide said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he hopes to have the chamber clear the legislation before the end of the week.
The Senate is scheduled to be on recess next week, but Reid — to keep to his time frame — indicated he would be willing to keep the Senate in session if the chamber can't approve the bill before Friday.
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) will likely force a vote on an amendment that would forbid the use of funds for the regulation of farm dust.