The New Democratic Strategy to Force a Clean CR Has a Built-in Timebomb

by evanmcmurry

The good news is the Democrats may have found a way to force a clean CR through the House despite the opposition of the House GOP leadership.

Stay with me here: the trick is called a “discharge petition,” which forces a House vote on a bill if a majority of representatives sign it. Democrats had considered using this before, but it takes 30 days for a discharge petition to mature. But Dems have discovered a previously filed bill, written by James Lankford (R-OK), that would pass sequester-level spending to avoid a shutdown; Lankford’s bill was written in March, clearing the 30-day hurdle. So a pair of Democratic reps will introduce the DP—that’s what I’m calling it now!—today, and if they gather 218 signatures from House reps, which they should be able to if all twenty GOP members who say they want a clean CR are telling the truth, the thing passes and goes to the Senate. Bam, government reopens. (<- All this via Greg Sargent.)

All good, right? For now. Here’s the bill’s language:

If Congress fails to approve a budget by the end of each fiscal year, the Government Shutdown Prevention Act would ensure that all operations remain running normally without any interruption of services by automatically triggering a continuing resolution (CR) or short-term, stop-gap spending device. The bill creates an automatic CR for any regular appropriations bill not completed before the end of the fiscal year. After the first 120 days, auto-CR funding would be reduced by one percentage point and would continue to be reduced by that margin every 90 days.

Catch that last sentence? The bill has a built-in spending cut of 1% every three months. Keeping in mind that for a decent amount of GOP reps, the sequester-induced spending cuts and the 18% of government currently furloughed are not unintentional consequences but the exact sort of government shearing they’re after, introducing a bill that automatically cuts spending if Congress doesn’t get its act together to pass appropriations bills incentivizes House Republicans to never, ever get their acts together to pass appropriations bills. It guarantees future chaos at regular intervals.