Have we seen the last of the budget stopgap measures?

Thursday - 3/17/2011, 10:31am EDT

Erik Wasson, staff reporter, The Hill

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

As the Senate today takes up the sixth continuing resolution for this budget cycle, there is a definite sense of a growing budget burnout.

The bill is expected to pass and the President is expected sign it by Friday to avert a government shutdown, but Erik Wasson, a staff writer for The Hill newspaper, told Federal News Radio, Republicans are getting nervous.

"The longer this drags out," said Wasson, "the better it helps President Obama. There have been some polls that have come out showing Obama getting more credibility on the budget, and the Republicans less, as their honeymoon post-the-election starts to wear off a little. So they think this is the time to strike, and as Democrats can delay it, it just helps them."

Could this really be the last CR for this budget year? Is it possible this might be the last? "It's very likely it is," said Wasson.

"I think the key figure in all this is Speaker John Boehner, who has the jerkiest job in town of keeping these Tea Party freshmen happy and also striking some kind of deal that keeps the government open. And the key problem in all this is are these social policy riders - especially the one defunding Obama's health care reform. There's a lot of pressure from groups that hate that bill to defund it and if he doesn't bring that home, I don't know really what's going to happen to his caucus on the floor."

While Wasson said he thinks "it's pretty much guaranteed this CR will pass," he also said there are efforts by lobbyists to pump up as many votes against the CR as possible. He explained, "a lot of this has to be seen as a negotiation where you're trying to show strength going into behind-the-scenes talks, so the conservatives believe to get a lot of no votes on the Senate, obviously not enough to block it but just a strong showing, that will increase the chances of some of the riders that they cherish will get into the final deal."

The riders, Wasson explained, are viewed as bargaining chips, so the more no votes this time means more power over riders in the next CR or budget negotiations.

At this point, Wasson said it's "really hard to tell" how close Congress and the White House are to being able to pass a budget, but that there are conversations going on on a "near daily basis."

"It seems now that the White House may be trying to strike a deal directly with John Boehner and sort of sideline the Democrats. I'm not really sure if that's the case but there do seem to be signs of that," said Wasson.

As for the moment, the CR being voted on this week would fund government agencies until April 8, and includes $6 billion dollars in cuts from the budget.

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