After a week of escalating rhetoric, House Republicans appear to be backing away from a possible shutdown, offering an olive branch to Senate Democrats with a short-term resolution to fund the federal government.
Late Friday afternoon, the House Appropriations Committee put out a new plan to extend funding for two weeks beyond the March 4 deadline to pass a continuing resolution or shut down the government. Included in the proposal are $4 billion in cuts broadly in line with Democratic proposals — $1.24 billion from programs that President Obama has already called on Congress to cut and another $2.7 billion from removing all earmarks, another plan with White House backing.
“This is a vitally important measure to prevent a government shutdown and we sincerely hope that Senate Democrats will join us in supporting this reasonable measure that contains cuts and terminations that they have voiced support for,” Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said in a statement. Earlier that day, Cantor said in a conference call with reporters that a shutdown “is not an acceptable or responsible option for Republicans.”Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also backed the latest proposal, releasing a statement in which he declared the bill “a clear path to finishing this short-term measure before the March 4th deadline.”
The White House had no immediate response to the proposal, but Democrats on the Hill quickly pounced on the Republican proposal as a capitulation, signaling that an imminent shutdown threat is likely averted for now. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Jon Summers, immediately hailed the move in a statement as a significant shift towards the Democrats’ position.
“The plan Republicans are floating today sounds like a modified version of what Democrats were talking about,” Summers said. “We’re glad they think it’s a good idea,Â but we should keep our focus on what we need to doÂ to cut spending and keep our economy growingÂ in the long-term. If we need a little more time toÂ agree on a responsible path forward,Â we shouldÂ pass a short-term CR for no longer than the next month. But the ‘my way or the highway’ approach Republicans have been takingÂ in the past only signals a desire for a government shutdown that our country can’t afford. We hope this is a sign that they have abandoned it and will work with Democrats moving forward.”
The two-week solution is still only a short-term stopgap while the tougher task of hammering out a broader funding solution remains. The House passed a CR earlier that contained $61 billion in cuts, prompting a veto threat from President Obama who dismissed them as overly harsh. With conservative freshmen leading a revolt against previous proposals for smaller cuts by GOP leaders, both parties have been gearing up for a possible shutdown in case negotiations bog down.