GOP Inviting Election Season Government Shutdown, Reid Warns

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is warning House Republicans they’ll be setting themselves up for another tea party-inspired government shutdown fight, unless GOP leaders buck their conservative rank and file and hew to the terms of last summer’s hard-fought debt-limit deal.

House Republicans are prepared to introduce their budget resolution next Tuesday, and some signs suggest they’ll call for cutting federal programs below the levels both parties agreed to in last August’s debt-limit fight. On Tuesday Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid laid down the Democrats’ marker in no uncertain terms: Dream on, we’ll never let you buck the deal.

“This wasn’t a handshake, it was a law we passed,” Reid told reporters on Tuesday at a weekly Capitol briefing. “And now, the Republican right wing in the House is trying to change the agreement we made as a matter of law. I guess they love government shutdowns, or at least the threat of them … If they renege on the law, the agreement, they’ll be forcing yet another government shutdown and a fight with the American people. That’s ridiculous.”Top House Republicans have tussled with their rank-and-file over spending levels in their upcoming budget resolution. High-ranking figures want to stick to the discretionary spending limits required by the Budget Control Act. But their conservative members insist on cutting federal programs even further. And whispers around Capitol Hill suggest the GOP will set those caps at some $20 billion beneath the agreed-upon levels, which could bind the lower chamber to those figures and touch off another showdown over funding the government beyond the end of September.

The lower spending levels will only take effect if both chambers agree to adjust the existing caps. Echoing fellow Senate Dem leaders, Reid doing so is nothing more than a tea party fantasy, arguing that the BCA was the product of months of arduous negotiations that Dems will not reopen.

“There isn’t a chance in the world it’ll become law,” Reid said of the upcoming GOP budget, if it indeed lowers spending caps. “No chance in the world. Budgets aren’t one-house operations. They are binding to the other house. We have a law that binds both houses. Our economy cannot afford another one of these senseless demonstrations by the tea party. The American people are sick of these manufactured crises.”

Sen. Patty Murray (WA), a Democratic leadership member and senior lawmaker on the Budget Committee, backed up Reid’s warning that it’s BCA levels or bust. “A deal’s a deal,” she told TPM, “and if Republicans renege on the one they made less than a year ago then I have absolutely no confidence that we can make any new bipartisan deals anytime soon.”

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) is expected to unveil the GOP’s blueprint in a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute one week from today. A spokesperson for Ryan did not respond to a request for comment on Reid’s remarks, or offer any hints on the budget figures.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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