No Shutdown, At Least

If you’ve been wondering, as I have, about whether Republicans would engineer a government-shutdown-threatening fight over the continuing resolution on appropriations that runs out on March 31, even if an appropriations sequester goes into effect earlier, here’s the apparent answer from The Hill‘s Alexander Bolton:

Republicans have decided that the sequester scheduled for March 1 — not a government-funding bill due at the end of March — is where they’ll make their stand on spending cuts.

After the bruising political battles of the last Congress, GOP leaders have decided the looming automatic spending cuts provide the best leverage to move President Obama to negotiate on costly entitlement programs.

“Republicans are not going to take a stand on a government shutdown. We’re not going to take a stand on the debt ceiling. We’re going to take a stand on the sequester,” said a Republican senator, who requested anonymity to discuss his party’s strategy.

Now Republicans are talking like the idea here is to force the White House to offer them “entitlement reforms” in exchange for a deal to avoid or replace the sequester. But that ain’t happening. So instead, it seems they will make the sequester–even with the hated defense cuts–a sort of propitiatory one-time offering to the Tea Folk and then move right along to 2014.

The shrieking we can expect from various victims of the sequester will, of course, create fresh pressure to accommodate them in any long-term appropriations measure, and that could create another spending fight even if GOPers don’t plan one right now. Indeed, the defense industry could even push Republicans into a post-sequester spending battle to restore some of their lost dollars. But at present, in a year which began with multiple “trigger points” for a Republican-generated meltdown–the debt limit, the sequester, and the continuing resolution–we may be down to just one.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.