The bipartisan budget deal approved by Congress last week did a fine job of “cleaning the barn,” to use former Speaker John Boehner’s phrase. The package, signed into law on Monday, set federal spending levels through September 2017, and included a debt-ceiling increase that will extend the nation’s borrowing authority until March 2017.
Heralding the compromise agreement, President Obama said on Monday the deal “should finally free us from the cycle of shutdown threats and last-minute fixes” for the remainder of his term in office.
And he’s right, it should. The only way to screw up this opportunity is for members of Congress to do so deliberately. Which, as Roll Call reported yesterday, is now a distinct possibility.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan won’t rule out policy riders in the omnibus appropriations bill the House will consider in the weeks ahead.“This is the legislative branch, and the power of the purse rests within the legislative branch,” the Wisconsin Republican said Tuesday at his first news conference as speaker, “and we fully expect that we’re going to exercise that power.”Ryan didn’t elaborate on what riders might be inserted into the bill to fund government operations through fiscal 2016, which must get passed by Dec. 11. However, Republican leaders in the past have attempted to use must-pass legislation to extract concessions on policy provisions from Democrats in Congress and the White House.
The budget deal created a spending blueprint of sorts – policymakers now know how much money will be appropriated for the various federal priorities. Everyone celebrated because, in theory, this meant there’d be no need for a shutdown showdown, since there’s no longer any debate over spending levels.
But the new House Speaker yesterday suggested spending levels aren’t the whole story. He and his conference may very well decide to attach unrelated policy priorities to the spending bills, effectively telling Democrats, “Accept these measures or we’ll shut down the government again.”
What’s more, this is slated to happen fairly soon: current funding that keeps the government’s lights on expires on Dec. 11, which is just five weeks away.
Slate’s Jim Newell had a good piece on this yesterday.
The hope (ha!) is that Ryan either has some understanding with the conservatives in his conference or at least will be given some leeway. Because a package that includes riders to defund Planned Parenthood or whatever else – repeal Obamacare, defund executive actions on immigration, require President Obama’s resignation, criminalize association with the Democratic Party – will face a presidential veto, if it even gets that far. […]What will need to happen in the end is that appropriators – Democrat and Republican, House and Senate – sit down and hash out some omnibus agreement that’s acceptable to majorities in both houses (and 60 in the Senate) and the White House. That means the sort of backroom deal-cutting that the Freedom Caucus and Ryan himself have vowed to move away from….
Ideally, the newly elected Speaker would take steps to defuse this situation now, making clear that the House GOP will not shut down the government and his members need to start adjusting their expectations accordingly.
Instead, yesterday, Ryan has started to do the opposite.
On Monday, the day before the Speaker’s comments to the press, the Washington Post reported that congressional Democrats have already begun focusing on how to prevent a shutdown, “anticipating a weeks-long fight with Republicans who could attach controversial provisions” to spending bills.
Watch this space.