Showdown or Shutdown? GOP Wants a Real Budget
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The Fiscal Times
March 15, 2011

The House and Senate are gearing up this week to pass yet another short-term spending bill to keep the government operating, but it may not be quite so easy this time. There is growing frustration among some conservative freshmen and veteran lawmakers who reluctantly went along with the two-week stopgap spending measure and are threatening to vote against another one.

Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, chairman of the Republican Study Committee and one of the top conservatives in the House, says he opposes this piecemeal approach to authorizing spending and wants more cuts, including a ban on federal funding for Planned Parenthood. “We must do more than cut spending in bite-sized pieces,” Jordan said in a statement Monday. More than half of the Republican Conference are members of the RSC, and Jordan’s move adds pressure for other conservatives to oppose the bill.

“The repeated stopgap funding resolutions have
taken a toll on federal agencies, creating
unpredictability, hampering workforce productivity and
potentially harming the nation.”

At least five other conservatives including Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., leader of the House Tea Party caucus, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., Rep. Jeff Flake R-Ariz., Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL., have pledged to vote against it because they favor a longer term budget plan and say Congress needs to turn its attention to bigger goals such as the President’s 2012 budget and the delicate maneuver over the debt ceiling.

With the spending war raging on Capitol Hill, federal agencies are feeling the stress of the budget impasse. They have been limping along on temporary funding for the past five months facing an uncertain budget picture. Some agencies have pointed to delays in long term research projects, hiring freezes, large backlogs of services to the public; others have stopped signing new and existing contracts that could save the government money, said Max Stier, president of Partnership for Public Service. “The repeated stopgap funding resolutions have taken a toll on federal agencies, creating unpredictability, hampering workforce productivity and potentially harming the nation,” Stier said.

Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Schapiro and Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates have been outspoken about the impact of the unpredictable budget on their agencies. “The budget impasse is keeping the agency from improving its market surveillance capabilities, which have been severely limited by our lack of technology,” Mary Schapiro said at several Senate and House hearings on SEC spending last week. Republicans have proposed slashing $25 million over the next six months. Schapiro said implementation of these cuts would force staff furloughs, put the brakes on technology upgrades and block implementation of Dodd-Frank Act rules.

Gates has warned that the temporary funding measures are threatening military readiness and restrictions on spending “may soon turn into a crisis.” But many lawmakers are far less concerned about bureaucratic headaches than getting overall spending for domestic programs down.

The last thing we want to do is become like [former
Democratic Speaker] Nancy Pelosi in the last Congress,
where it was ‘my way or the highway.’”

Some Republican members have come out swinging against the conservatives in their own party who vowed to oppose the temporary spending bill that is essential to keep the government running past Friday, creating an intraparty tug-of-war over just how much to cut from the federal budget.

“The extreme wing of the Republican Party is making a big mistake with their flat-out opposition to a short-term continuing resolution,” freshman Rep. Michael Grimm, R-NY., said in a statement. “They’re not looking at the big picture, and the last thing we want to do is become like [former Democratic Speaker] Nancy Pelosi in the last Congress, where it was ‘my way or the highway.’”

No one is seriously expecting a major budget impasse that potentially could lead to a government shutdown, but the opposition reflects a growing body of disgruntled Republicans. Clearly House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are finding it increasingly difficult to hold in check conservatives who are demanding deep cuts in this year’s programs as the price for their continued support.