Old Republican Plan to Avoid Shutdown May Hinder Current Shutdown Plan

Roll Call’s Stephen Dennis and Matt Fuller are out with a wonderful scoop of insight – the rediscovery of an old, conservative/mainstream GOP plan to prevent future shutdowns. Before the CR wars of 2011, back when they felt that the “optics” of shutdown fights would not get the party what it wanted, conservatives like Rep. Jeb Hensarling backed legislation that would automatically fund the government for 120 days in the absence of appropriations bills. No riders, no defunding of Obamacare. The gimmick: After 90 more days, and for each 90 days following, there’d be a sequestration-like cut of 1 percent to all spending.

Dennis and Fuller sought out Hensarling to discuss all this.

“I don’t think either side should be exploiting this,” Hensarling said of the shutdown threat in an interview with Roll Call in October 2010. The Texas Republican sponsored the bill back then, and he’s a co-sponsor of the Lankford measure, which he confirmed he still supports.

On Friday, CQ Roll Call asked Hensarling if he felt Republicans had, in any way, exploited the threat of a government shutdown to extract concessions on Obamacare.

“Exploited?!” Hensarling asked. “What you’re asking us to do is to ignore what the majority of our constituents …” Hensarling said before trailing off. “It is a serious issue.”

He continued: “I would love to have the bill to take this on, but it’s kind of eleventh hour for the Democrats to come in and say, ‘We’ve never wanted your bill before but we’re willing to have it today.’ Fine, if they’ll sign on for it, then we can solve this problem.”

Amusing on its own, but actually important given the update Fuller published less than an hour later.

House Democrats are moving ahead with a plan to discharge a GOP bill that automatically funds the government, advancing a course that could eventually end the government shutdown — if enough Republicans cooperate.

Democrats announced Friday afternoon that they would file a discharge petition on a bill sponsored by Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., that has sat waiting for action by the Appropriations Committee since March.

This matters for a very picayune reason: If you’re just starting up a discharge petition, one that allows a bill to come to the floor without the backing of the House majority, you need to wait 30 days to act on it. But if you try to discharge a bill that already exists, you don’t need the time. 

As I wrote this morning, the ink-friendly “moderate Republicans” who keep saying they’re ready to vote for a “clean CR” keep balking at an actual chance to. They may balk at this. If so, the exercise will mostly prove that the Overton window on what a CR can contain has shifted incredibly far to the right since 2010.