By MIke Lillis - 10/04/13 05:41 PM EDT
The leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus will back the sequester as part of a short-term spending bill to reopen the federal government.
Although the liberal lawmakers are among the sharpest critics of those across-the-board cuts, they decided this week that they'll swallow the $986 billion spending level on a six-week continuing resolution (CR), as passed by the Senate, in order to end the four-day-old shutdown.
Republicans have argued all week that a clean funding measure lacks the votes to pass through the lower chamber.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Thursday suggested a number of Democrats would defect.
But the group's endorsement raises questions about the Republicans' claim, with Democrats all but united on the issue, and more than 20 centrist Republicans have said they'd support the Senate bill without conservative amendments.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), co-chairman of the caucus, said the group had “a long meeting” this week to discuss the Senate bill, which resulted in his decision to get behind Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other party leaders, who are reluctant supporters of a short-term CR at the sequester spending level.
The progressive caucus’s opposition to sequester-level cap “was based on [the notion of] permanently locking it in,” Grijalva said.
“This six-week window changed the dynamics, because we'll get to have another bite at the apple,” Grijalva said Thursday. “That's the consensus the [Congressional Progressive Caucus], as a caucus, reached.”
Although Republicans have pushed a funding measure that extends funding through Dec. 15, Senate Democrats, led by Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (Md.), shortened that window to Nov 15.
“When Mikulski did that, it kind of relieved the internal battle,” Grijalva said of the group. “The fact that you're not locking it in for a whole year, setting that precedent, relieved a lot of pressure in our caucus.”
Grijalva was quick to clarify that not every member of the Progressive Caucus was on board. But with his endorsement, combined with that of co-chairman Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a majority of the group's 72 members are expected to be on board.
Democrats on Friday staged a rally outside the Capitol with federal employees and union leaders, all calling for GOP leaders to bring a clean CR to the floor immediately.
“The Republican Party refuses to put the bill on the floor that, if passed, would open the government by 1 o'clock today,” Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said.
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), head of the Congressional Black Caucus, delivered an even sharper message.
“What are you afraid of, Mr. Boehner? Why will you not put a clean CR on the House floor,” Fudge said. “Do you not realize that you are the Speaker of the whole House? … Act like this is a democracy.”