Tuesday Sept. 24, 2013
WASHINGTON — One of the lost subplots in the drama over a potential government shutdown is congressional liberals' opposition to a short-term budget bill at current federal funding levels.
The House-passed continuing resolution, besides repealing Obamacare, funds the government at an annual rate of $986 billion, which is the current, post-sequestration budget level. But Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison wants to restore the $72 billion in annual cuts that took effect in March when lawmakers couldn't agree to a deficit reduction package.
Ellison and Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, wrote to Senate leadership on Monday asking them to oppose any budget resolution that locks those cuts into place, even for a few more months.
“The House passed CR, which amounts to a 15 percent cut from enacted 2013 levels to non-defense discretionary accounts, endorses the destructive cuts demanded by sequester,” the letter said. “Worse, it deepens the cuts to non-defense accounts while signaling intention to alleviate only the defense cuts. A vote for a CR at $986 billion is a vote to continue the policy that will cost Americans millions of jobs when they are desperately needed.”
House Democratic leaders, including Nancy Pelosi and Whip Steny Hoyer, have said they'll vote against any budget bill that includes the sequestration cuts, even after the Senate strips the Obamacare repeal language later this week. But, as Roll Call notes, removing Obamacare defunding seems to be the main priority for Senate Democrats and the White House:
"While Reid doesn’t need to be convinced that the sequester is bad and the GOP is to blame, he has given no sign that he is looking to change the spending level in the bill. Instead, he is focused on removing House language defunding Obamacare. Plus, the White House signaled last week that it would sign a stopgap spending measure at sequester levels, providing some political cover for Democrats."
Ellison and Grijalva are prepared to whip their 70-member caucus against a post-sequestration budget bill, and if other Democrats join in it could make a final House vote on a budget resolution very interesting, especially if a big group of Republicans decide to oppose a bill that doesn't otherwise defund Obamacare.