GOP seeks to end talk of shutdown

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House Republicans are considering a vote before the August recess on a stopgap bill that would avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1.

Congressional aides cautioned that no final decision has been made, but the party appears to have a strong interest in completing a continuing resolution (CR) well before the deadline.

The last government shutdown in 2013 sent the GOP’s poll numbers plunging to historic lows. While Republicans are not making noise about another standoff this year, Democrats are likely to use the possibility of a shutdown to go on the attack.

Republicans are also well aware that the last shutdown fight escalated rapidly during the long August recess, when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and other senators staged events around the country calling for the defunding of ObamaCare.

Lawmakers had pledged earlier this year to complete the 12 individual appropriations bills to fund the government, but that effort quickly veered off track.

As recently as last week, the House was churning through the individual annual spending bills for fiscal 2015. The House on Wednesday passed its seventh fiscal 2015 appropriations bill for the Financial Services Committee, which provides funding for the IRS, Wall Street enforcement agencies and federal payments for the District of Columbia.

But the Senate has not passed a single appropriations bill for the new fiscal year, due to fights over amendments. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) initially wanted to set aside time to consider appropriations bills this summer, but a $120 billion package stalled on the floor in June, and there has been no action since.

That makes it a near certainty that Congress will need to pass a stopgap measure to prevent the government from closing down for the second straight year.

A vote in the House next week would give the Senate little, if any, time to react before leaving town for the five-week break. Moving on the issue sooner rather than later would establish the House’s opening salvo and pressure the Senate to move quickly.

No details were available on the spending levels that the House bill might authorize. The budget agreement brokered by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) last year sets fiscal 2015 spending at $1.014 trillion.

The short-term funding bill would essentially put federal agencies’ budgets on autopilot and could last beyond the midterm elections. That way, the House and Senate could negotiate a more detailed omnibus spending bill after the elections to provide funding for all federal agencies through the rest of the fiscal year.

The Ryan-Murray budget compromise originally gave appropriators hope that the House and Senate would be able to at least agree on a handful of regular appropriations bills, but that didn’t happen.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and his Senate counterpart, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), were eager to pass at least a handful of the annual spending bills after the shutdown last fall.

But with few legislative days remaining, passing appropriations bills under so-called “regular order” is out of the picture.

Asked Tuesday about the possibility of a CR, Rogers said only, “We’re having conversations.”

This story was posted at 2:08 p.m. and updated at 5:54 p.m. and 8:40 p.m.

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