Bachmann says shutdown equals admission of failure

The leader of the House Tea Party caucus, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), warned against a government shutdown Monday, saying it would amount to an “admission of failure” on the part of Congress.

“To me a shutdown is an admission of failure that we have not been able to come together and get our work done,” Bachmann told The Hill after the caucus’s first meeting of the new Congress. “My preference is to not see a government shutdown. I think we need to do whatever we can to avoid that. I don’t think anyone benefits from that.”

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Bachmann’s comments could boost the efforts of House Republican leaders to unite their conference behind a short-term spending bill that would cut $4 billion over two weeks. The bill is needed to avert a shutdown when current funding expires after March 4.

Tea Party activists have pushed Republican leaders to demand even more spending cuts from the Obama administration and congressional Democrats in order to keep the government running. The House Speaker who presided over the infamous shutdowns of the mid-1990s, Newt Gingrich, has suggested Republicans should not fear closing the government if the alternative is compromising their promises to cut spending. Like Gingrich, Bachmann is also exploring a presidential bid.

Bachmann said she is undecided on the short-term funding bill and that the Tea Party caucus, which has 50 members, may push GOP leaders to include a provision defunding the 2010 healthcare law. Party leaders have said the stopgap measure would not include that and other provisions aimed at restricting specific policies, which were part of the seven-month spending bill the House passed in February.

 The caucus on Monday heard from three Tea Party activists discuss the debt limit and other spending issues. Bachmann acknowledged that many conservatives want deeper cuts than the GOP has approved thus far. “People across the country aren’t necessarily that impressed about the $100 billion that we pulled out of the president’s budget,” she said, referring to the House-passed spending bill. “They want more, and they really want us to defund ObamaCare.”

Several House conservatives offered their approval of the two-week spending measure, which lawmakers plan to take up on Tuesday. Freshman Reps. Allen West (R-Fla.) and David McKinley (R-W. Va.) said they would support the legislation but warned that any future short-term spending bills must contain the same level of cuts. “Whatever it is, it better be $2 billion a week,” McKinley said.