Politics

August 3, 2013

Lawmakers dig in for fiscal fight

Both parties retrench, as the sixth showdown on the budget deficit looms

By Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael C. Bender / Bloomberg News

(Continued from page 1)

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On Capitol Hill, compromise may remain elusive as members of both chambers seek to win deals that will satisfy their core supporters.

The Associated Press

CONSEQUENCES DOWNPLAYED

During a forum that day sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, a Washington research group that favors small government, Cruz downplayed the negative consequences for Republicans after federal government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996. Republicans in 1996 lost nine House seats and the presidential race.

Twelve Senate Republicans, about a quarter of the caucus, have signed a letter in support of linking the health care law to the budget debate. McConnell is being pressured to join the effort by outside groups as well.

ForAmerica, a Reston, Va.-based group that advocates for smaller government, this week started a Web campaign that likens the fifth-term senator to a chicken.

"You fund it, you own it," the spot warns, referring to the health care law.

The strategy of linking health-care funding to broader budget issues puts at risk the party's House majority, said Republican Rep. Tom Cole, a member of House Speaker John Boehner's leadership team.

"It's just simply short-sighted politics," said the Oklahoma Republican.

In the House, Boehner, of Ohio, has his own "tough situation to manage," Cole said.

Boehner, who was in his third term during the last government shutdowns, is being pressed to resist any compromise by tea party-aligned lawmakers who dominate the Republican majority in the House.

"It may be a messy process, but I suspect we'll find a way to get there," Boehner told reporters at a July 31 news conference on Capitol Hill. He said August 1 that a stopgap spending measure at the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year "is in the nation's interest."

OPTIMISM FADING

White House officials say optimism is fading for a long- term fiscal deal, though Obama still wants one.

They point to House Republicans as the biggest impediment to a compromise, saying they're in search of a "common sense" caucus.

"Right now what you see, particularly in the House of Representatives, is that pro-growth fiscal policy is turned on its head," National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling said at a July 31 breakfast in Washington sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. "When you just call for these deep cuts or sequester, you're hurting growth in the short term."

The president won't accept splitting the defense and non-defense cuts covered by sequestration or the "budget cut levels that are in many of the House appropriation bills," senior Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer told reporters.

Republicans are considering a minimalist deal that would maintain current spending levels and raise the debt ceiling enough to delay the debate until after the 2014 election. White House approval of the Keystone XL pipeline could be part of that bargain for Republicans.

With little pressure from the business community, Wall Street, or either party's activists to reach a broader agreement that would include changes to the tax code, there's little incentive to find one, said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic strategist and former congressional aide with close ties to the White House.

"There's a lot of cross-currents here that make it difficult to get to anything other than some sort of short term, get-to-the-next-election deal," he said.

 

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