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House Republican leaders made their first real move Tuesday toward averting a politically catastrophic shutdown Oct. 1, but they once again face a tough road to unite their conference behind them.
The plan for a short-term punt marries the 2013 spending levels reduced by the sequester with a legislative maneuver that would force the Senate to vote again on defunding Obamacare. Both parties would get to duke it out through the fall, with the longer-term issues like the mid-October debt ceiling deadline still unresolved.
Aides in both parties and chambers expected that a clean, short-term continuing resolution would keep the government operational until December — past the looming debt ceiling deadline — and, at least in the House, would need to be approved with mostly, if not exclusively, Republican backing. Senate Democrats are waiting for House Republicans to prove they actually can pass a bill through their chamber before committing to a plan.
All four congressional leaders — Speaker John A. Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — are scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss the fiscal challenges ahead.
The closed-door meeting, to be held at 10 a.m. in Boehner’s leadership suite, will be the first time the leaders have sat down together to discuss fiscal issues since last spring when they discussed sequester cuts with President Barack Obama. The leaders are expected to discuss both the continuing resolution and the debt ceiling.
A House Republican leadership aide, meanwhile, said he thought the meeting would focus primarily on the debt limit, with Boehner making it clear of the “political reality” that the sequester won’t be replaced until Democrats agree to a whole host of cuts and overhauls.
A House democratic leadership aide said it was difficult to imagine a productive outcome from the meeting, given that it is scheduled to coincide with the House’s consideration of a short-term spending measure holding government funding at sequester levels.
“It sends a message of insincerity,” the aide said.
House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said on Tuesday that he hopes the two-and-a-half-month CR at a $986.3 billion spending level buys Congress the necessary time to work together on agreeing to a more sustainable topline number.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are hoping that the short-term extension can give them time to roll back the sequester, given the significant number of Republicans who do not support the defense cuts.