By Erik Wasson
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said Wednesday that, despite restlessness by House conservatives, a government shutdown won't happen.
On Tuesday, 54 Republicans voted against a short-term spending bill, bucking GOP leadership even though the bill cuts $6 billion in spending.
He maintained that the GOP rebellion does not weaken Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) hand in striking a deal with Senate Democrats.
“It puts more oomph behind getting a longer-term deal,” he said. He acknowledged, though, that it “remains to be seen” whether the GOP will need House Democratic votes to pass a final CR deal.
“It makes all of us a partner in the conversations,” he said when asked about Tuesday’s votes.
But he made clear that GOP leadership will not force a government shutdown to get Senate Democrats to accept $61 billion in cuts this year.
“There will not be a shutdown,” he said. “I am determined, and our party is determined, not to have a shutdown.”
He said appropriators are eager to get on with the 2012 budget and no longer be “distracted by this noisy mud-wrestling match on the short-term [measure], on '11.”
“I think we will be able to get it done in a satisfactory way,” he said. He declined to say what level of cuts Republicans will ultimately settle for this year, or whether they would accept a bill that is free of riders defunding greenhouse gas regulations, Obama’s health reform or Planned Parenthood over abortion.
“I have always been told not to show your cards until you have laid them down,” he said. The riders, along with the overall level of cuts and where the cuts should be the biggest, are the three key elements in the negotiation, he explained.
He said many Republicans are passionate about the riders but that “the 2012 bills will also be a place where we can try to resolve some of these issues.”
Asked to defend proposed GOP cuts to job training, Pell Grants and other programs, Rogers said they are meant to spur business investment, which in turn will create jobs.
Rogers was asked about his opinion of the "Gang of Six" talks in the Senate on a longer-term deficit solution.
He said entitlements must be tackled since appropriations cover only 15 percent of the budget. He also said that while he does not support all of the president’s fiscal commission report, he does support much of it.
On the other hand, he cannot envision a solution that includes tax increases, he said.
“I can’t imagine that Republicans will put tax increases on the table. I don’t see it coming,” he said.
He said he hopes Democrats come out in favor of tax increases as a part of deal because it will help the GOP at the polls.
“Politically I hope the Democrats do just that,” he said, adding that the public thinks overspending — and not low taxes — is causing the deficit.
Asked about the vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, Rogers said he believes it will be a separate issue from resolving the CR, which he said must be done by April 8, due in part to impatience by conservatives with short-term measures.