Un-Clean CR

The closest thing to a CW we have for how the immediate fiscal crisis will be resolved is that after one or two or three or five volleys back and forth across the House-Senate net, John Boehner will bow to the inevitable deterioration of public support for a government shutdown and let a minority of House Republicans join with House Democrats to pass a “clean” (e.g., shorn of extraneous riders like restrictions on the implementation of Obamacare) continuing resolution for the next eleven months, as offered consistently by the Senate.

There are, however, a couple of problems with this scenario, aside from the premise that Boehner’s willing to risk his gavel by violating the Hastert Rule. One is that the longer the appropriations battle lasts the more it will merge with Boehner’s own separate threat of a battle over the debt limit. That’s pretty well understood. But a second is that the “clean CR” actually includes reduced domestic spending at a time when House Democrats are determined to modify the sequestration system set up the last time we went through th debt limit madness in 2011. TNR”s Noam Scheiber briefly explains the problem:

The Senate sent back the Republican CR stripped of its Obamacare provision on Friday, though they still approved a sequester-induced cap on federal spending at $988 billion—if only for a period of several weeks. Their House counterparts have now vowed to ignore that figure and instead push for a $1.058 trillion, the level originally set by the Budget Control Act. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra called the Republican budget proposal “lunacy,” and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer has promised a fight. Meanwhile, a sizable Republican rump will also vote down legislation that doesn’t go after health care reform. The sequester could therefore become one of the prime movers behind a government shutdown.

Aside from the substantive issues involved, it’s natural that House Democrats aren’t real crazy about an extended drama in which their assigned role is limited to bailing out John Boehner from the demands of his own caucus, particularly if Republican spin-meisters subsequently describe the whole episode as a trick wherein Democrats have been maneuvered into voting for reduced domestic spending as the only way to save Obamacare. So don’t be surprised if congressional Democrats start loudly calling the CR underlying the Obamacare battle as Unclean.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

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.