Boehner Raises the Stakes on a Government Shutdown

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House Speaker John Boehner today ruled out a short term extension of current levels of government funding, raising the prospect of a government shutdown.

The House tonight or tomorrow is expected to pass funding for the government through the rest of the year. But both chambers of Congress are out next week for President’s Day recess. The current funding expires March 4th. Which means that in the five days Congress is back the week after next, the Senate must pass its version the continuing resolution (CR) — they’re unlikely to accept the House bill as it’s written with more than $100 billion in cuts — and kick it back to the House. Then, if the House doesn’t accept the Senate version, a compromise must be wrought and passed by both chambers. In the world of budgets, achieving this in five days is a lightning speed unlikely to be achieved. Democrats had been counting on a temporary extension of current funding while a deal is negotiated for the rest of the year, but Boehner’s refusal today to give the process any more time forces Dems, and some Senate Republicans, to either accept deeper cuts than they’d like or face a government shutdown.

“We are hopeful that the Senate will take up the House‑passed bill that comes out of here today, tonight, tomorrow morning, whenever it is, and we hope that they will move it,” Boehner told reporters on Capitol Hill this morning. “But I am not going to move any kind of short‑term CR at current levels. When we say we’re going to cut spending, read my lips:  We are going to cut spending.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded by implying that Boehner’s decision shows he has little control of his conference. “I am disappointed that Speaker Boehner doesn’t believe he has the votes to avoid a government shutdown, unless his members get their way on all of their demands,” Reid said in a statement. “It is unproductive to resort to threats of a shutdown without any negotiations.”