With big, automatic budget cuts about to kick in, House Republicans are turning to mapping strategy for the next showdown just a month away, when a government shutdown instead of just a slowdown will be at stake.
Both topics are sure to come up at the White House meeting Friday between President Barack Obama and top congressional leaders, including Republican House Speaker John Boehner. A breakthrough on replacing or easing the imminent across-the-board spending cuts still seems unlikely at the first face-to-face discussion between Obama and Republican leaders this year.
To no one’s surprise, even as a dysfunctional Washington appears incapable of averting a crisis over economy-rattling spending cuts, it may be lurching toward another over a possible shutdown.
Republicans are planning for a vote next week on a bill to fund the day-to-day operations of the government through the Sept. 30 end of the 2013 fiscal year — while keeping in place the new $85 billion in cuts of 5 percent to domestic agencies and 8 percent to the military.
The need to keep the government’s doors open and lights on requires the GOP-dominated House and the Democratic-controlled Senate to agree.
Any agreement needs to pass through a gantlet of House tea-party conservatives intent on preserving the across-the-board cuts and Senate Democrats pressing for action on domestic initiatives, even at the risk of creating a foot-tall catchall spending bill.
There’s also this: GOP leaders have calculated that the automatic cuts arriving on Friday need to be in place in order for them to be able to muster support from conservatives for the catchall spending bill to keep the government running. That’s because many staunch conservatives want to preserve the cuts even as defense hawks and others fret about the harm that might do to the military and the economy. If the automatic cuts are dealt with before the government-wide funding bill gets a vote, there could be a conservative revolt.
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Avon, said the $85 billion in budget cuts will pose grave consequences for many parts of Ohio, particularly those that rely heavily on federal spending like defense contractors in the Miami Valley or around Greater Cleveland.
On a broader scale, longer lines at airports across the state could adversely affect traveling and the cuts, if left unchecked, could slow down the state’s economy significantly
Brown said he fully supports the Senate Democratic plan, which seeks to cut spending by $142 billion over a decade, mostly by replacing spending cuts with a split between $55 billion in additional tax revenues and $55 billion in spending savings — a plan Brown deemed both rational and balanced.
In a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, Brown heaped blame on House Republicans, who he said are simply unwilling to consider any new revenues, either through tax increases or closing tax loopholes. Brown also said that more cuts to defense spending should be strategically considered to minimize the effects on the economy.
He added that he didn’t see any sort of compromise or any easy path to a better deal that would head off the sequester by Friday.
“These cuts can’t come out of just nondefense discretionary spending,” he said, “We have zero chance of reaching an agreement. Republicans are being held captive by their tea party, and they’ve refused to put revenue raises on the table, eliminate tax subsidies for five of the biggest oil companies or even eliminate tax loopholes for the wealthy and corporate interests.”
Vindicator staff writer Jamison Cocklin contributed to this report.