By Molly K. Hooper and Russell Berman - 04/05/11 11:06 AM EDT
Republicans on Monday night introduced a measure to fund the military through September and government operations for one more week.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told his conference about the legislation — which contains $12 billion in spending cuts — during a Monday night meeting, his office said. The move is intended to prevent a government shutdown that would start after Friday unless Congress approves another measure to fund the government.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said the GOP was trying to prevent a government shutdown "at all costs."
Boehner told GOP lawmakers attending a closed-door conference meeting that he needed “leverage” going into a meeting with President Obama and Senate Democratic leaders at the White House on Tuesday morning, a lawmaker told The Hill.
“He said he needs this [the as-of-yet-introduced bill] and the support of the conference going into that meeting at the White House, because he feels it gives him more leverage,” the source explained to The Hill.
Boehner refused to comment on his strategy as he left the meeting. Several independent sources confirmed that a bill to fund military operations through the end of September — the end of the fiscal year — would serve as an “anchor” for a short-term, one-week bill to fund other government operations. The measure would cut $12 billion in funding from current levels.
In an email to reporters, the Speaker's office said: "House Republicans will post online tonight the text of a bill that will make significant spending cuts and fund the Department of Defense though September while keeping the government running."
A readout from an aide in the Speaker's office added that "other provisions may be included as well. We hope the White House and Senate Democrats will get serious about making real spending cuts on a long-term bill, but this measure provides us with an option if House Republicans choose to use it."
Later Monday night, in a statement from the Appropriations Committee outlining the cuts, Rogers blamed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for attempting to "abuse the budget process to conceal additional spending through phony offsets and gimmicks."
Of the stopgap measure, he said, “This bill is not the preferable way to go forward, and I would greatly prefer to come to a final agreement with the Senate to put this long-overdue budget work behind us. However, we must maintain critical programs and services for the American people and protect our nation’s financial future. This legislation give[s] us this option, while exacting a price for Leader Reid’s delays and allowing time to finally begin honest negotiations.”
Fifty-four House Republicans voted against the most recent short-term continuing resolution. Adding Defense spending to another short-term CR puts members of the GOP conference in a tough spot, however.
“If it has Defense spending in there, that makes it difficult to vote against,” a participant said. With less than five days until current government funding expires, House Republicans want to keep their options open.
During the nearly hour-and-a-half meeting, about 40 GOP lawmakers stood to ask questions of their leadership. A number of so-called “dissidents” rose to decry the idea of another short-term funding measure.
Boehner's GOP conference has grown tired of approving short-term spending measures in place of a measure to fund the rest of the 2011 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Boehner had not ruled out another stopgap, though his lieutenant, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has done so.
The Pentagon has complained about the short-term funding measures, arguing that they interfere with a military still involved in two wars as well as airstrikes against Libya. By tying a one-week stopgap to legislation funding the military for the rest of the year, Boehner may have found a way to win enough votes to buy another week of negotiations.
A freshman who has led protests outside the Senate in recent days, Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), said making sure the military had continued funding was a consideration for lawmakers.
“We all agree that it’s the responsible thing to fund the government. I think the conference agrees with that too,” Crawford said. “There are varying opinions, but I think at the end of the day we all agree it’s the responsible thing to make sure our troops downrange are funded and that the government’s funded in a responsible way.”
The House is scheduled to start a two-week recess at the end of next week, which sets up a new deadline for talks involving the White House and member of Congress. Boehner earlier on Monday said the $33 billion in spending cuts offered by the White House and Democrats is not enough and would not lead to a deal.
Rogers said that House and Senate negotiators made "good progress" on Saturday toward a spending deal for the rest of the year, but that talks "ground to a halt" on Sunday when Reid instructed his staff "not to proceed any further with negotiations."
"We made good progress Saturday, but come Sunday things just stopped. Sen. Reid has stopped good faith efforts.”
"Sen. Reid has instructed his staff not to agree to any policy riders, and all numbers had to go through him, so the Senate negotiators really had nothing they could talk about," Rogers said.
A government shutdown was "certainly in the possibilities," Rogers said. "We want to avert that at all costs."
Rogers indicated that a government shutdown was possible, and at the start of the closed-door meeting, members were briefed quickly on preparations to handle such a scenario.
According to one lawmaker, members were to receive a packet of information on how to organize their offices in the worst-case scenario.
The Speaker's office confirmed that Boehner "informed House Republicans that tomorrow, at the Speaker’s direction, House Administration Committee Chairman Dan Lungren will issue guidance to all members on how the House would operate in the event Senate Democrats shut down the government.
"Because of the Senate's failure to do its job and pass legislation to cut spending and fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, Speaker Boehner made clear we have no choice but to prepare the House, and the American people, for a shutdown. The discussion with Democrats will continue, but the House has an obligation to be ready if the White House and Senate Democrats choose to shut down the government," the Speaker's office said.
Lungren's staff has worked on guidelines for members to use as they determine which employees would be furloughed and how benefits would be assessed.
A Democratic leadership aide told The Hill: "The Republican leadership
is preparing for a shutdown. Instead of coming to the table to work
with Democrats and the White House who have offered $33 billion in
cuts, Speaker Boehner is taking his orders from the Tea Party who said to 'cut it or shut it.' "
—This story was initially posted at 8:47 p.m. on April 4.