How Congress Could End Up In A Government Shutdown Fight After All

Could there be a government shutdown fight in the coming weeks despite the fact that Republicans have agreed with Democrats on a funding figure for the coming fiscal year, and GOP leaders say they’ve lost the appetite for another round of brinksmanship?

Yes.Politico gets at how it might happen here in a story whose headline reads as if House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is prepared to renege on the budget deal the parties struck during the debt limit fight.

That’s not really what’s happening. If it were true, it would damage his relationship with the White House and put him at odds with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) who on Monday told reporters, “I think the risk of bringing back brinksmanship or another potential shutdown is not something right now that we need, is not something that would be helpful to create jobs and regain confidence, which is why I’ve taken the position that I have.”

Cantor’s position is that Congress should appropriate $1.043 trillion for the coming fiscal year and Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel says there’s no daylight between the two: “$1.043 trillion will be the final FY 2012 number,” he said in an email.

However that leaves open the possibility that Republicans will try to husband some of that money — a few billion dollars worth — to pressure Democrats to deal with them on the terms of each appropriations bill: Which accounts gets how much money, and will Democrats sign off on GOP policy riders, limiting President Obama’s power to advance environmental, health care, and other key regulations?

We’ll know more later this week — possibly later today. Congress will have to temporarily extend all government funding in the next two weeks, to buy time to pass all of its appropriations bill by mid-to-late fall. That temporary funding measure — a “Continuing Resolution” — would be the Republicans’ vehicle for sequestering those billions of dollars. If they’re going to execute this strategy, they’ll have to make a decision soon.

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