GOP leaders rebuff Bachmann, Tea Party supporters on budget

Rep. Michele Bachmann
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Rep. Michele Bachmann

WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders appear ready to reject calls from their right flank, led in part by Michele Bachmann, to insist on cuts so deep and unpalatable to Democrats that they’d likely to force a government shutdown.

News of the negotiations breakthrough came late Wednesday, less than 24 hours before a Tea Party rally on Capitol Hill (at which Michele Bachmann is a featured speaker) aimed at pressuring GOP leaders in the House to not just hold firm on their demands for $100 billion in cuts this fiscal year, but to go even further, including insisting that the health reform law be completely defunded as a condition of any deal.

Vice President Biden told reporters late Wednesday that bipartisan negotiators had settled on around $73 billion in cuts for the remainder of the Fiscal 2011 budget — another $33 million in cuts from the most recent continuing resolution but well below the $100 billion Republicans originally wanted. Biden stopped short of announcing a deal because details of how those cuts would be reach are still being ironed out.

“There is no reason why, with all that’s going on in the world and with the state of the economy, we can’t reach an agreement to avoid a government shutdown,” Biden said, “because the bottom line here is we’re working off the same number. This is — it’s about how.”

Current federal funding expires April 8, and several senior members of both parties said a deal would have to be reached this week, at least in principle, to meet that deadline without another short-term continuing resolution.

That framework agreement — which Biden took great pains to say was not a deal yet, because exactly what would be cut has yet to be agreed on — would likely not touch the recently passed health care law.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi
REUTERS/Jose Luis Magana
Rep. Nancy Pelosi

“Let’s put it this way,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Wednesday afternoon, “the health-care rider is not one that will be in any bill that will be sent to the president and that the president will sign.”

To Tea or not to Tea
Bachmann and others in the Tea Party Caucus have insisted on not passing a single federal spending bill without at least guaranteeing $100 billion in cuts as expressed in the GOP’s campaign manifesto, as well as a complete rescission of $105 billion already authorized to fund the health reform law and more policy-oriented riders like blocking funding from Planned Parenthood.

The Tea Party Patriots, in an announcement on their website promoting their rally, said it’s “time to make a stand and put the screws to the Washington establishment.”

“Patriots across the nation spoke loudly last November. You voted for change. You voted for real fiscal leadership,” they wrote. “Unfortunately Washington doesn’t get it. President Obama and the Reid Senate continue to ignore the fiscal crisis while the House dithers around the edges of spending cuts. We need bold leadership and we need it now.”

Asked earlier this week which way House GOP negotiators should lean — toward a deal with Democrats or toward the Tea Party position — Bachmann said the choice was simple.

“There’s an old phrase that says, ‘Dance with the one who brung you,'” Bachmann said, noting that Tea Party activists helped push Republicans to retake the House. “Remember why we’re here, who we serve, and what the principles are of the people who sent us here and are we holding to them.”

Bachmann, Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert and Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston introduced legislation Wednesday to rescind already-authorized funding in the health reform law, and force the White House to get annual budgetary approval for implementation spending (which they would invariably fight tooth and nail against).

Variations on this legislation have been introduced in several different iterations already this year. Most notable among them was HR 2, a bill to repeal the entire health reform law, which cleared the House on Jan. 19. The Senate has so far refused to take up the measure, and Democrats in that chamber have said they won’t consider a repeal or defunding measure as part of budget talks.

Sen. Barbara Boxer of California called the Tea Party Caucus stance of “my way or the highway” as she described the demands made by Bachmann and her allies as immature. “It’s not budgeting, it’s a political vendetta.”

Difference between passing and insisting
It should be pointed out here that Republicans have already passed sweeping budget cuts through the House (which the Senate later voted down).

Theoretically, those already-approved cuts could provide some political inoculation against Tea Party attacks from the right, as House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders can say (quite correctly) that they already passed a health care law repeal through the House, and steered major discretionary spending cuts through as well.

Two continuing resolutions have passed so far — the second one requiring Democratic votes to make it through the House — and so a relatively clean bill would likely have enough Democrats willing to come over and vote for it, several Democrats said.

“I told some of my Republican friends that there are some of us on this side of the aisle who are willing to vote for more cuts, as long as they don’t attach these riders,” said Rep. Collin Peterson.

But what Bachmann, Gohmert, Kingston and their allies realize is that Republicans, by holding the House majority, effectively have an effective pocket veto in the budgetary process. And passing statement bills they know will fail in the Senate but not insisting on defunding in the must-pass bills isn’t acceptable for the Tea Party wing.

“We promised people that we would vote to repeal Obamacare, and that we would do everything we could to defund Obamacare,” Gohmert said. “If this type of thing is not part of the CR, then we are not really living up to our promises to do all that we can.”

And that’s why they’re having a rally.

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 03/31/2011 - 10:18 am.

    It’s sad, in a way.

    Our Republican friends will now find themselves becoming the victims of their own hyperbolic, hysterical 30-year efforts to expand and enrage a “conservative” base with overblown lies and distortions – the weasel news crowd.

    Having sown the wind, they will now reap the whirlwind. The Frankenstinian monster of a coalition that they worked so long and hard to bring to life is about to move beyond their control.

    Operating strictly on the basis of serious personality dysfunctions and, therefore, unresponsive to facts, reason, empathy or compassion, the “conservatives” whom they have grafted onto their party will now tear themselves loose, and turn to destroy those who created them.

    The “moderate” Republicans who recognize the danger for their party of a government shutdown, not to mention the danger to American Business and the general population, will, indeed, compromise with the Democrats (who, themselves, will give up FAR TOO MUCH in that compromise).

    The Tea Party will then go after the “moderates” with everything they’ve got, taking them down in primaries and party gatherings across the states in favor of Tea Party-favored candidates who will be so unpalatable to our nation’s middle of the road moderates as to be totally unelectable.

    Thus will the Raygun coalition finally crumble to dust, just as it came as close at it will EVER come to enacting it’s real agenda and thereby revealing it’s truest ambitions: the destruction of the American middle class and the betrayal of all those “Raygun Democrats” (which so many of us have seen coming for so long) making what it was really all about so clear as to be undeniable.

    Of course Mickey Bachmann will be re-elected in our own 6th District, mainly for her stand against abortion, but the new Tea Party (the GOP will be gone after the next election) that she will preside over in Washington will lose control of the House, lose ground in the Senate and be reduced to making ever-more-undeniably false and outrageous claims which make it clear to all but their equally-dysfunctional supporters that they have left the reality the rest of us occupy completely behind,…

    in favor of some completely alternate reality which seems to resemble nothing so much as the type of “Twilight Zone” episode in which the characters, seeking to fix problems only they can see, devise solutions that they insist on implementing (despite the opposition of wiser characters) and find that whatever they do to “fix” those problems makes everything worse, and worse, and worse…

    I could almost feel sorry for them if they hadn’t been so massively stubborn in ignoring all evidence to the contrary while pursuing “fixes” that have pushed us so close to destruction.

  2. Submitted by dan buechler on 03/31/2011 - 10:30 am.

    CR. Does that refer to the congressional record?

  3. Submitted by Lyn Crosby on 03/31/2011 - 10:41 am.

    I delight in hearing there’s dissension within the Republican Party!

  4. Submitted by Cecil North on 03/31/2011 - 10:53 am.

    Sounds to me like the GOP came to the dance with the Tea Party because they couldn’t get another date.

  5. Submitted by Derek Wallbank on 03/31/2011 - 12:12 pm.

    Dan –

    Apologies for not spelling that out. It’s the continuing resolution, by which they’ve funded the government in absence of a full budget.

    -DW

  6. Submitted by Richard Pecar on 03/31/2011 - 12:15 pm.

    The current crop of republicans and tea party folks remind me of lemmings. Legend has it these critters fell from the sky during stormy weather. It has been also rumored they jump off cliffs for reasons not understood. Who knows…

    Fact or fiction, in my view repub’s and tea party folks are showing similarities to the legends of the lemmings. They too scurry about incessantly and burrow here and there for little things.

    Time will tell, it won’t take long. One can chant, “whatever it is, I’m against it” for only so long before nothing remains to be for.

  7. Submitted by David Greene on 03/31/2011 - 04:21 pm.

    So what’s the political calculation of a party that holds two thirds of the lawmaking power, including the veto, giving the other side 75% of what it wants?

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