The government shutdown battles are poised to make a comeback if Republicans win control of the Senate this fall.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised in no uncertain terms that he’d use must-pass spending bills to force confrontations with President Barack Obama over policy reforms if he’s elected majority leader.
“We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy,” McConnell told Politico while traveling on his campaign bus across Kentucky. “That’s something he won’t like, but that will be done. I guarantee it.”
The Kentucky Republican added that Obama “needs to be challenged, and the best way to do that is through the funding process.”
Since they took control of the House in 2011, Republicans have forced a series of standoffs by attempting to use the appropriations process to make policy changes they otherwise lack the votes for in Congress. They’ve sought to attach extraneous provisions — known as riders — involving everything from restricting abortion rights, undoing coal pollution regulations and, of course, defunding Obamacare, which led to the first shutdown since 1996 last fall.
Republicans haven’t been able to get any of these measures out of Congress because they’ve been stiff-armed by the Democratic-led Senate. McConnell is planning to change that if his party wins the Senate by adopting conservative policy provisions in spending bills that Obama can either sign or veto at risk of a government shutdown.
“He would have to make a decision on a given bill, whether there’s more in it that he likes than dislikes,” he said.
McConnell’s promise raises the already high stakes for the 2014 Senate races, where the electorate and the map favors Republicans. They have to win a net of six seats to take control of the chamber. The House is all but certain to remain in Republican hands.
Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), slammed McConnell’s remarks.
“Yes, Senator McConnell is pledging nothing but more gridlock and confrontation and doubling down on the exact same tactics that led to the shutdown last year,” Jentleson told TPM. “It’s true, I’m just surprised he’s saying it out loud.”
Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), the chairman of House Democrats’ electoral arm, responded to McConnell’s “shutdown threats” in a statement on Wednesday.
“Once again, we’re seeing that Republicans see government shutdowns as partisan tools, not economic disasters,” he said. ” It’s exactly this kind of reckless gamesmanship that led to the last shutdown and is leaving the door open for another at the end of September. For the sake of our economy, this Republican Congress needs to take shutdowns off the table once and for all.”