House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) warned on Thursday that the threat of another government shutdown is real unless President Obama and the Democrats end their opposition to a GOP budget plan that boosts defense spending while capping domestic programs.
Ryan said that senate Democrats’ efforts to filibuster a fiscal 2016 defense appropriations bill that exceeds legal caps by $38 billion are problematic and could provoke another government-wide spending crisis.
During an interview this morning with Ben White of Politico, Ryan was asked whether the festering dispute over spending policy could cause a repeat of the 2013 government shutdown.
“I think the question is will the Democrats in the Senate try to shortchange the men and women in the military by trying to derail the defense appropriations bill,” he replied. “If they try to play politics with our military, with our men and women who are out fighting for us in harm’s way, I think that would be a very bad thing” and could lead to another government crisis.
In another indication of the GOP leadership’s mindset, Ryan was dismissive of calls by Obama and congressional Democrats for an equitable distribution of increased funding next year between defense and domestic programs. That would necessitate lifting the spending caps for both defense and domestic programs mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act.
“I think they would basically be saying the military is subservient to these other priorities if they try to filibuster the defense appropriations bill,” said Ryan.
Ryan’s comments are the latest sign that Congress and the White House are headed for another long, hot summer of sorting out their spending differences. Although the former House Budget Committee Chair helped negotiate the last major budget deal following the 2013 government shutdown, he sounded combative in today’s interview.
Ryan, the Republicans’ 2012 vice presidential nominee who chose to head the House tax writing committee rather than run for president in 2016, signaled that major tax reform would be put off until after the election. He also denounced the Dodd-Frank financial reform law as “a huge wet rag on the economy” that should be repealed and replaced with better policy for regulating Wall Street.
But Ryan’s sharpest comments were on the looming spending crisis.
Obama has threatened to veto spending bills, including the congressional defense appropriations bill, unless GOP leaders agree to lift spending caps on domestic programs as well as defense. The president and the Democrats also are insisting that GOP leaders abandon a budget gimmick designed to funnel $38 billion of additional funds into the Pentagon’s base operating budget through an emergency contingency account meant primarily to fund U.S. war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The brewing spending crisis goes far beyond differences over spending levels. The White House and congressional Democrats are up in arms over a series of riders that advance a conservative agenda being added to spending bills.
In the House, one of the appropriations bills would drastically reduce funding for the enforcement of new labor rules, according to The New York Times, while the main federal family planning program, Title X, would be eliminated. Another spending bill provision would halt regulation of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to produce oil and gas.
At the same time, intraparty feuds among Republicans over a new highway bill, reauthorization of the expired charter for the Export-Import Bank, medical research and other issues are causing fits for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and other Republican leaders.
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