Wednesday, September 23, 2015

First Attempt to Avoid Shutdown Surfaces

Drew Thies

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released his short-term funding proposal to avoid a potential government shutdown, but whether or not the plan will work is still up in the air.

Votes on the bill will begin at 2 p.m. on Thursday, leaving less than a week to come to an agreement before the government runs out of funding as Wednesday, September 30th comes to a close.

The short amount of calendar days—and even fewer legislative days—are not the only obstacles between McConnell and a continuing resolution to fund the government: conservative members of the House GOP caucus are breaking with leadership over the strategy to defund Planned Parenthood in the wake of recent controversial videos. Additionally, members of McConnell’s own chamber who are running for President, such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, have publicly stated they support the defunding of Planned Parenthood while on the campaign trail.

This disagreement over strategy puts Republican leadership in both chambers in a difficult position. McConnell’s plan appeases the more conservative voices calling for a defunding of Planned Parenthood, though Senate Democrats are expected to do their best to block the bill and President Obama would almost certainly veto such legislation if it reached his desk—a veto that Republicans do not have the numbers to override.

The other option left to Republican leadership is to go to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats to seek support for a bipartisan approach to a continuing resolution. Democrats have already indicated that they would seek many concessions if Republicans need their help. Additionally, Speaker of the House John Boehner is facing threats from a growing fringe of Republican House lawmakers who view him as increasingly deferential to Democratic leadership and may strengthen their resolve to remove him of his leadership post if Democrats are able to drive funding negotiations.

Though the administration believes that Congress can avoid a shutdown, the Office of Management and Budget has begun to work with other government agencies to prepare for what would be second government shutdown in exactly two years. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Matthews Burwell has wrote to HHS employees warning them of potential impending furloughs come October.

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