By Alexander Bolton - 09/24/13 07:24 PM EDT
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that he would amend the House stopgap to last only 45 days, giving Democrats leverage to boost funding levels for next year.
Reid wants to shorten the measure by a month to put pressure on the House GOP to agree to a larger budget deal by mid-November that would replace the automatic cuts known as sequestration.
The government funding measure passed last week by the House lasts until Dec. 15.
Reid said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) persuaded him to adopt the shorter-term resolution.
“They believe that a funding measure that runs through Nov. 15 would provide a greater opportunity for appropriations bills to pass the Senate, and I agree with them,” he said. “The amendment that I file in the next day or so will prevent a shutdown through Nov. 15.”
Reid said his amendment would strip out language to defund ObamaCare, which would need only a simple majority vote to pass once the Senate votes to end debate and move to final passage.
It would also strip House-crafted language to ensure the U.S. government does not default if Congress fails to raise the debt limit next month. Democrats mock this language as the “Pay China First” provision.
Senate Democrats say it could take until Sunday to pass the stopgap and send it back to the House.
Reid warned that if the House tries to make additional changes, it would likely result in a government shutdown.
“If we finish this on Sunday, send it back to the House, and the House is talking about changing it again. And that is a surefire way to shut down the government,” he said.
Reid said he would adopt the funding levels set by House Republicans, which are a continuation of current policy, including the automatic cuts known as sequestration.
Reid argued that the funding level in the stopgap does not matter because total discretionary spending for fiscal 2014 would be capped at $967 billion by the 2011 Budget Control Act and sequestration.
“It doesn’t matter what that top number is. Let’s say we’re $100 trillion. The only thing that matters is January and the sequester,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Reid said he would accept the House level of $986.3 billion “because nothing is that consequential until we have sequester, which kicks in automatically in January."