House Dems plan CR that replaces sequestration

Thursday - 9/12/2013, 6:40pm EDT

With the legislative clock ticking down and a short-term funding measure supported by Republican leaders stalled, House Democrats have crafted their own plan to temporarily fund federal agencies when the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, announced Thursday he plans to introduce a Democratic alternative to the GOP continuing resolution that would replace automatic budget constraints set to continue into fiscal 2014.

The bill would replace sequestration in fiscal 2014 — which otherwise would automatically curtail discretionary spending by about $91 billion — with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.

Van Hollen's proposal would fund the government through Nov. 15 and would set an annual rate of spending of $1.058 trillion — the level allowed for by the 2011 Budget Control Act before sequestration.

Republican efforts on a CR have screeched to a halt. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) unveiled a $986 billion stopgap funding measure Tuesday, funding agencies through Dec. 15 at slightly lower than current, "post-sequestration" levels. But tea party conservatives balked at the measure because it didn't go far enough in blocking the implementation of the Obama administration's health care overhaul.

That led House leadership to delay a vote on the temporary funding measure — originally expected to come as early as this week — until next week.

"While the GOP is scrambling, Democrats are committed to practical solutions for American families and businesses," Van Hollen said in a statement. "That is why we're offering a plan that would replace the sequester for the full fiscal year, ensure the government doesn't shut down, and set funding for FY 2014 at the agreed-upon level in the Budget Control Act."

Still, the Democratic plan is largely a nonstarter. On seven different occasions, House Democrats' efforts to introduce similar sequestration-replacing measures have garnered no support from Republicans.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are running out of time to act. There are just five scheduled legislative days left before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30. If lawmakers fail to come to agreement on a funding deal, the government will be forced to shut down.

However, while the House had originally planned to be away from Washington the entire week of Sept. 23, Majority Leader Eric Cantor said he may cancel the planned recess so lawmakers could work on a budget deal.

Speaking from the House floor Thursday morning, Cantor said he would make a formal announcement next week about whether the House would meet the week of Sept. 23.

Adding another wrinkle to House leaders' plan, in a "Dear Colleague" letter, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said he opposes the House CR because it exceeds annual spending caps put in place in 2011.

"We reject the temptation of any short term political victory that paves the way for bigger debt, bigger borrowing, and bigger government," he said in the letter. "Therefore, we absolutely oppose any continuing resolution or appropriations legislation that would increase spending above the levels provided under the Budget Control Act.

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