- House speaker tells Republicans to brace for missed deadline
- Republicans insist they won't shut down the federal government
House Speaker Paul Ryan braced rank-and-file Republicans Thursday for the possibility that a deal won’t be reached with Democrats on a must-pass government spending bill before current funding expires after Dec. 11.
“We were told to be flexible at the end of next week," said Representative John Carter of Texas, describing Ryan’s advice to lawmakers at a closed-door meeting. “That means be ready to work Saturday and Sunday.”
Democrats and Republicans are negotiating over the bill as time runs out on the government’s ability to finance its operations. If talks go past the deadline, "we’ll obviously have to have a short-term continuing resolution" to avoid a shutdown, Carter said in an interview.
Republicans have insisted they won’t allow another government shutdown. The government closed for 16 days in October 2013 over an unsuccessful bid by Republicans to end funding for Obamacare. That shutdown cratered Republicans’ ratings in public opinion polls, and the party is particularly wary of a repeat as the 2016 election nears.
The snags in negotiations aren’t over the amount of aggregate funding in the spending bill, because that figure has been set at $1.1 trillion.
Rather, the complications are over policy provisions that Republicans would like to add to direct or limit how the government spends money. Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, chairman of an Appropriations subcommittee, said such direction is a proper function of Congress.
Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said on Sirius XM radio’s “POTUS Politics” program on Thursday that some of the policy provisions Republicans are demanding are viewed by Democrats as "poison pill" measures.
"This is the first big test of Speaker Ryan’s leadership because there are many people in the House Republican caucus -- the Tea Party faction -- who are once again threatening to shut down government if they don’t get their way on some of these ideological riders," Van Hollen said.
Objectionable provisions, Van Hollen said, include language to prevent President Barack Obama from moving forward with a plan to cut carbon pollution, and a prohibition on the entry of Syrian refugees. He said only mutually agreed upon policy provisions should be attached to such a "must-pass" bill.
"People should not use this process and the threat of government shutdown to impose their will on the country when there is not a consensus on that policy," Van Hollen said. "The question is whether Ryan will be able to stand up to the more extreme voices in his caucus."
Representative Bill Flores of Texas, chairman of the Republican Study Committee of about 170 House conservatives that has offered dozens of provisions for consideration, said that Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, didn’t try to persuade members to agree to concessions.
Ryan was just "giving the lay of the land" on negotiations, Flores said.