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Budget brinkmanship is on tap again this fall, if this week’s renewed finger-pointing over a potential government shutdown is any guide.
Though Congress and the White House have just more than two months to strike a deal keeping the government running — and a little longer before the debt ceiling hits — they appear set to engage in a full-fledged messaging war over the August break before returning to the negotiating table in September.
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, challenged the White House to take a shutdown off the table by dropping a veto threat on spending bills at the House budget’s austere level. That $967 billion level happens to be the one prescribed in the 2011 Budget Control Act that President Barack Obama signed into law, and it includes the full-year effect of the sequester that both sides have called bad policy.
It’s a $21 billion cut from this year’s spending level of $988 billion.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said it would be unacceptable to let the sequester continue beyond the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year — and he vowed to oppose a stopgap spending bill that would do so.
“I think it would be a disaster for this country, and I would do everything within my ability to oppose that,” Reid said when asked about a continuing resolution at the $967 billion level.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney largely dodged two questions about the threat of a shutdown. Instead, he talked about the need for a balanced approach to the budget and said the president does not support cutting education, innovation and infrastructure to “protect special interests.”
But he avoided getting pinned down on the central question: Will the president veto spending bills and risk a government shutdown to get his way on spending and taxes?
Buck nailed Carney for refusing to take a shutdown off the table.
“This scenario is a lose-lose for the American economy: either a tumultuous government shutdown or further job losses as a result of tax hikes,” Buck said. “And it cuts away all credibility the White House has when it decries — as it regularly does — such political tactics.”
Republican House appropriators have been eyeing a possible compromise spending level of $988 billion, though Senate Democrats are working off a much higher budget number assuming that the sequester goes away.
But despite weeks of negotiations between the White House, Senate Democrats and a group of compromise-minded Senate Republicans aiming at reviving some version of a grand bargain on taxes and entitlements, there has yet to be a breakthrough.