It hasn’t generated much interest over the summer, but there’s been a looming threat of a pre-election government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year. It seemed unlikely, and it lacked the drama of the previous three government shutdown threats, but the possibility remained.
To recap, Democrats and Republicans struck a deal last summer on spending levels for the upcoming year, which seemingly cleared the way for a smooth budget process. In April, however, House Republicans said they no longer liked the agreement they’d already accepted, and demanded even deeper spending cuts. Without an agreement, we’d see a shutdown this month.
Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) managed to keep his caucus in line, and the chamber agreed to keep the government’s lights on through March.
The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a six-month stopgap government funding bill on a 329 to 91 vote, putting aside the partisan warfare of the past 18 months in bipartisan resolve to avoid a budget showdown ahead of the November election.
The Senate is expected to pass the same measure late next week, providing funding for agencies for the first six months of the fiscal year and avoiding any threat of a government shutdown when the year ends Sept. 30.
The far-right Club for Growth stomped its feet a bit yesterday, urging Congress to reject the bill, but the group was largely ignored.
So, did Republicans blink? Actually, yes. Five months ago, Republican leaders said they were no longer satisfied with the agreed-to spending levels, and would shut down the government unless Democrats accepted additional cuts. Democrats refused to even consider additional talks.
And as of yesterday, the GOP decided the unacceptable spending levels weren’t so bad after all.
It’s tempting to think Republicans backed down due to Democratic resolve, but that’s probably only part of the picture – Boehner and other GOP leaders also didn’t want to be on the hook for shutting down the government, and drawing national ire, so soon before the election.
Regardless of motivations, however, the Senate will approve the spending measure next week, President Obama will sign it, and we probably won’t see any additional legislative action until the post-election lame-duck session – which is bound to be very interesting this year.