Congress Expected To Avert Government Shutdown — At Least This Week

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Barring an unexpected turn of events, Congress will avoid a government shutdown again this week, by passing stopgap legislation to keep the government funded for another three weeks. But patience is wearing thin across Washington — in the Republican and Democratic conferences on the Hill, and at the White House, where officials are frustrated about having to run the government on piecemeal, inefficient budgets.

The House will vote Tuesday on yet another “continuing resolution,” which cuts several billion more in spending from the government’s current operating budget. It will likely pass both the House and the Senate, but it’s not clear they’ll be able to pass another, if they don’t bridge the budget impasse by early April.

“We may not be able to fully resolve this and meet next week’s deadline for the continuing resolution, which means that there may be potentially one more short-term extension,” President Obama said at a Friday press conference. “[W]e can’t keep on running the government based on two-week extensions.”Nobody else thinks that’s a good idea either.

“We’ll get it through,” said House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy on CNN’s “State of the Union Sunday. “We will pass the stopgap, but this is not the pattern we are going to continue down in the future.”

Rank and file members in both parties and both chambers are losing their patience, too. Republicans want to pass a long-term spending plan that includes dramatic discretionary spending cuts. Democrats, by contrast, want to shrink the budget by cutting spending more broadly. Each side, including the White House, is reaching the point where they think a brief shutdown might be the only way for the parties to realize how urgent their need to reach a compromise has become.

“I will no longer support short-term budget plans. While attempts at new spending reductions are commendable, we simply can no longer afford to nickel-and-dime our way out of the dangerous debt America has amassed,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) wrote in a Monday op-ed on the conservative website RedState.com.

Remember, this is the minor leagues. Republicans will try to force deeper cuts, including to popular entitlements, when they kick off the fiscal year 2012 budget process later this year. And Republicans will try to use the imperative that Congress raise the country’s debt limit to force even greater cuts. Both of those fights could result in government shutdowns, or worse, if they aren’t resolved in bipartisan compromises soon. The rest of 2011 will be bumpy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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