Will tea party Republicans shut down the
federal government? (Reuters/Rick Wilking)
Steny Hoyer, echoing Nancy Pelosi's offer to John Boehner:
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer is asserting himself in the budget debate, saying his fellow Democrats would likely help Republicans pass a government funding bill that would make $20 billion more in cuts to government spending, as long as the bill includes no unrelated hang-ons.
The Maryland Democrat told reporters Tuesday morning in the Capitol that it is his “supposition” that enough Democrats in the House would again join Republicans in a White House plan that exacts deeper cuts to keep the government open, similar to how they assisted the majority in passing the last three-week measure, when Boehner did not have enough votes within his conference to pass it on his own.
To recap, the issue here is that tea party Republicans in the House have made it clear they will not support any funding bill that does not include provisions such as a repeal of the health care reform law and a ban on family planning funding. Obviously, those are poison pill provisions; the Senate wouldn't pass them, and even if it did, President Obama wouldn't sign them into law.
Because the most recent stop-gap funding measure, which will keep government open until April 8, did not include those provisions, 54 tea-party Republicans voted against it in the House, forcing the GOP to rely on Democratic votes to prevent a government shutdown. (They needed 32, but got 85.)
Unless tea-party Republicans flip-flop, John Boehner is going to need Democratic votes to pass a funding bill that can pass the Senate and get President Obama's signature, and Hoyer's comments were designed to make it clear to Boehner that Democrats are ready and willing to achieve a bipartisan compromise to keep the country moving forward.
Boehner is facing enormous pressure from his party's right-flank to refuse the Democratic offer for cooperation, even though that would force a government shutdown. Polls show that tea-party supporters are losing confidence in Congressional Republicans on budget issues and by significant margins favor a government shutdown. But while a majority of Boehner's political base says they favor shutting down government for several weeks, nearly three-quarters of Americans say such a shutdown would be a bad thing.
So John Boehner needs to choose between satisfying his the extreme right of his party, or forging a compromise with Democrats to move forward. The choice is his. Whether or not we have a government shutdown is entirely up to him.