Democrats in Congress alongside some moderates in the Republican Party have tried and tried to compromise on the terms for a continuing resolution for fiscal year 2011, which runs through September 30 this year. But pushed by Tea Party partisans in the House and in congressional districts and states across our nation, House Republicans leaders are unable or unwilling to take "yes" for an answer. Now we all face the very real prospect of a government shutdown for the first time in more than 15 years.
The American people expect more from their representatives in Congress, but chances are they probably don’t follow the day-to-day budget battles on Capitol Hill to see who is responsible for bringing us to this clearly avoidable juncture. That’s why the Center for American Progress put together this timeline of the FY 2011 budget debate-to explain how Tea Party Republicans continue to say no to a compromise that:
- Reduces the federal budget deficit by the largest one-time cut in history
- Meets Tea Party demands by more than halfway
- Cuts the federal budget the amount they want, even as they moved the goalposts
These extremist conservatives are holding Congress and the American people hostage to their narrow ideological agenda, refusing to compromise when a majority of Americans on the left and the right support compromise over conflict and a government shutdown. Undeterred, Tea Party Republicans cheer for a shutdown.
So let’s take a look at this history of negotiations over the FY 2011 budget, which is now six months overdue and apparently dead in the water due to these extremists.
House Democrats pass a full-year budget for FY 2011
House Democrats passed a full-year continuing resolution—keeping the federal government operating through the end of the fiscal year—that would have allowed the spending debate to take place on the 2012 budget, which begins in October this year. But Tea Party Republicans in the Senate blocked Congress from passing full-year funding, setting themselves up to create the current crisis—a crisis that they appear to have been plotting since before the elections last November.
Tea Party Republicans scuttle a full-year budget for FY 2011 in the Senate
Under pressure from Tea Party Republicans after the November 3 congressional elections, which tea partiers took as a mandate to slash government spending while making permanent the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, Democratic leaders in Congress could not overcome a threatened filibuster in the Senate to pass a FY 2011 omnibus budget. Senate Democrats had 59 votes, more than enough to pass the legislation but less than enoughfewer than were needed to end debate once it was called up.
Sen. Dan Inouye (D-HI) had spent the previous three months rounding up Republican votes to pass an omnibus budget, and in December believed he had the votes to take it up. Indeed, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had initially worked with Sen. Inouye to pass the bill. But when Sen. McConnell was threatened with revolt by his Tea Party members in the Senate and House as well as by Tea Party leaders outside Congress, Sen. McConnell reported to Sen. Reid that the legislation could not be passed.
House and Senate Pass a continuing resolution through March 4, 2011
After Senate Republicans blocked passage of a full-year funding bill, Congress in December 2010 passed a short-term continuing resolution that kept the government running at FY 2010 spending levels through March 4, 2011.
"First signs of fissure" between GOP leaders and the Tea Party
Tea-Party freshmen demand dramatic reductions in government spending in the "first sign of a fissure between old-guard Republicans and Tea Party-backed newcomers."
House Republicans propose $74 billion in cuts
House Republicans’ opening salvo in the budget debate this year proposed $74 billion cut from President Obama’s FY 2011 budget, which amounts to $32 billion less spending than last year. Their list included deep cuts in high-speed rail funding, the Environmental Protection Agency, and aid for impoverished women and children.
Tea Party backlash: $100 billion in cuts
Tea Party activists immediately complained that House GOP leaders were not following through on their pledge to cut the federal budget by $100 billion, and the ultraconservative Republican Study Group proposed far steeper cuts.
Republican leaders bow to Tea Party pressure
House Republican leaders, bowing to pressure from their colleagues, said they would seek another $26 billion in spending cuts this year. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) said his panel would boost the savings following complaints that the party had abandoned its campaign promise to cut spending by $100 billion.
A $100 billion reduction from president Obama’s request for fiscal year 2011 would be about $60 billion less than FY 10’s spending levels. But Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), a Tea Party leader, said the revised plan still doesn’t go far enough, in part because the proposed $100 billion in savings includes cutting the administration’s defense spending request.
House passes H.R. 1: $100 billion in cuts by a vote of 235-198
The bill includes a list of extreme policy riders that have nothing to do with funding the government, and in many cases increase spending. Conservative Republicans add these riders to their list of non-negotiable items in budget negotiations. They include the full repeal of the Affordable Care Act alongside steps to end government funding of Planned Parenthood, ban funding to implement Wall Street reform, and block the Environmental Protection Agency from carrying out its duty to protect public health.
Arguing the Tea Party position, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), said: "But let’s be clear. $100 billion represents only one-fifteenth of the deficit. That’s why it was disappointing that the Republican Study Committee amendment to achieve more savings for American families fell short of the votes required for passage. Considering the size of Washington’s $1.5 trillion deficit and $14 trillion national debt, far greater steps must follow."
House passes a short-term CR (H.J.Res. 44), for two weeks
This included $4 billion in cuts, and passed by a vote of 335-91.
Senate Democrats also pass a short-term CR (H.J.Res. 44), for two weeks
This included $4 billion in cuts, by a vote of 91-9, keeping the government running despite their concerns about the budgeting on two-week timeline. Democratic leaders in Congress then called on House and Senate Republicans to get serious about completing a full budget for the remaining seven months of the fiscal year.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called for Republicans to start serious negotiations. "Rehashing the battle over funding the government every two weeks is bad policy because it creates uncertainty for businesses, and our economy can’t afford it," Sen. Reid said. "The time has arrived for Republicans to come to the table to begin negotiations with Senate Democrats and the White House immediately on a long-term package."
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) called the two-week CRs "stopgap" solutions. "If Republicans are serious about negotiating a responsible compromise on a long-term measure, House Republicans should immediately accept the invitation from the White House," he said. "Two-week stopgap solutions only delay the adult conversation we need to have. This is a stalling tactic by the House Republicans because they are unwilling to enter serious negotiations. It has grave consequences to continue doing business in this way. In the last week, nonpartisan economists have told us that the uncertainty about whether the government will remain open or shutdown has a fiscal drag on the economy."
Division among House Republicans’ willingness to compromise on the controversial riders that are nongermane to the budget negotiations
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), the chairman of the House Appropriation Committee’s environment subcommittee, told The Hill that he’d support dropping the EPA rider , along with a series of other riders that block funding for EPA regulations, if it prevents lawmakers from reaching a compromise on spending cuts.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who voted against the previous measure reducing spending by $4 billion, told The Hill he will do everything he can to make sure the final spending deal defunds Obama’s healthcare reforms.
Democrats call for smart, targeted spending cuts and no policy riders
House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told Congress that "Democrats agree that spending cuts are necessary to tackle our deep budget deficit, but those cuts must be smart and targeted. Republicans’ reckless plan would take jobs away from our hardworking citizens, end vital investments in economic growth and our security, and severely harm America’s competitiveness.
Democrats offer $51 billion in cuts
Sen. Reid: "Democrats have come to the negotiating table offering $61 billion of cuts in wasteful spending and excess. However, House and Senate Republicans are refusing to budge from their extreme spending proposal that economists agree would eliminate hundreds of thousands of American jobs."
Rep. Hoyer : "Here in Washington, Democrats have said that we’re more than willing to cut spending we don’t need-to cut and compromise. We’ve met Republicans more than halfway. But that’s not enough-and so we see a stark contrast between two approaches to the budget. One approach believes in smart, targeted cuts. The other wants to hit an arbitrary, ideological target-never mind the consequences."
Senate rejects H.R. 1 and its $100 billion in cuts by a vote of 44-56
The Democratic majority in the Senate prevailed in defeating H.R. 1, setting in motion once again the need for House Republicans to begin negotiating to reach a compromise. The Senate also rejected S. Amend. 149 to H.R. 1, which was the Senate Democrats’ first compromise of $50 billion in cuts by a vote of 42-58, with all Republicans voting against the amendment.
Democrats call on Republicans to work with them on a long-term solution
Sen. Reid : "We have said from day one that Republicans’ reckless spending plan is a nonstarter because it would destroy 700,000 American jobs, weaken our border security and slash housing for homeless veterans. Now that it has been defeated, Republicans have no excuses left. It’s time for them to work with us to on a responsible, long-term solution that funds our government for the rest of the year, makes responsible cuts, and safeguards our fragile economic recovery."
Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski signals opposition to Planned Parenthood defunding
Sen. Murkowski : "I believe Planned Parenthood provides vital services to those in need and disagree with their funding cuts in the [House-passed bill, H.R.1]."
The previous week, Republican Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) had also expressed opposition to the cuts.
House passed another short-term CR (H.J.Res. 48) with $6 billion in cuts
This new CR makes $10 billion in total cuts at this point, and passed by a vote of 271-158. This extended government funding until April 8, 2011.
House and Senate negotiators come close to finding common ground on a deal that would include $30 billion to $40 billion in cuts
This compromise was not far from where Republicans started in February before the Tea Party House members clamored for steeper reductions.
Senate passes the second short-term CR (H.J.Res. 48)
It includes $6 billion in cuts-for $10 billion in total-by a vote of 87-13, funding the government until April 8.
Fifty-four Republicans, many of them elected with Tea Party support in November, and others who fear a Tea Party challenger in 2012, voted "no." This was the case even though the spokesman for Sen. Reid, Jon Summers, noted that "this is a package that’s made up of Democratic cuts. We’re glad that Republicans worked with us, despite the objections of the Tea Partiers on the right."
Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Scott Brown (R-MA) reject Planned Parenthood defunding
Sen. Brown : "I support family planning and health services for women. The proposal to eliminate all funding for family planning goes too far. As we continue with our budget negotiations, I hope we can find a compromise that is reasonable and appropriate."
Sen. Snowe : "The outright elimination of funding for Planned Parenthood and Title X is a step too far and would have a significant impact on access to the preventive services and screenings that have benefited millions of women nationwide."
Talks collapse when Republicans once again reject Democratic compromise—even though some Republicans are asking for a compromise
Democrats went into the negotiations that day expecting Republicans to counter their weekend proposal for $11 billion more in spending cuts. Together with the $10 billion in reductions in recent continuing resolutions, Democrats said that would bring them about a third of the way toward House Republicans’ proposed $61 billion. But Republicans had no counteroffer. Instead, according to people familiar with the talks, they said Democrats had to start over, working from the House-passed measure and identifying each spending cut and policy rider they opposed.
House Republicans claim Senate Democrats unwilling to compromise
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says that Sens. Reid and Schumer had failed to offer a credible plan to finance the government for the rest of the fiscal year. Yet Democrats had already showed a willingness to compromise to the point where negotiations were on track to wind up where the Republicans had first started out.
Democrats offer a cumulative $70 billion in cuts and again state their opposition to policy riders
Majority Leader Reid: "Our latest proposal is $70 billion. That’s $6 billion away from the proposal of the Republicans. These numbers are clearly in the same ballpark, yet the Republicans have stopped walking. In fact, they are walking in the other direction."
Indeed, by this point, Senate Democrats and the White House had met Republicans far more than halfway with their budget plan. Using 2010 spending as the baseline, Democrats are proposing $30 billion in total cuts, including $10 billion already enacted in two short-term measures. Sen. Reid noted that, using Obama’s 2011 budget request as a baseline, Democrats are offering $70 billion in cuts compared to the original Republican demand for $76 billion in cuts.
41 Senators vow to block House GOP’s assault on Planned Parenthood
The senators : "We oppose the provision in the House-passed continuing resolution that cuts Planned Parenthood health centers off from federal funds used to provide cancer screenings, birth control and other preventative health care services to 3 million Americans every year."
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) says $33 billion in cuts is not enough
Rep. Boehner: "Vice President Biden’s offer of $33 billion in spending cuts is not enough. I look forward to continuing these discussions, but for those discussions to be meaningful it will require the White House and Senate Democrats to bring a serious proposal to carry out the people’s will of cutting spending."
House Republicans were moving the goal posts again, and dodging the question about policy riders by insisting they were all about government spending. That same day, though, Sen. Boxer announced a filibuster-proof margin to oppose harmful women’s health rider, revealing she had 41 senators in the Democratic Conference-enough to sustain a filibuster-united in opposition to a GOP policy rider that would eliminate government funding for Planned Parenthood.
Undeterred, Tea Party leaders again rejected compromise and threatened House leaders. Tea Party Founder Judson Phillips said that "there are currently some very specific plans by some very serious people to make sure that both Boehner and Cantor not only have primary opposition in the next election but to also make certain they lose their next primary." Added Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) : "There are people who will say if we get $60.9 billion it will be a failure. We need to start moving beyond that."And in the Senate, Sen. Jim Sessions (R-AL) said that "I really believe we should do $61 billion in total."
Tea Party conservative Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) says he’ll shut down the government over Planned Parenthood
Rep. Pence : "We’re going to dig in and we’re going to fight for the principle that taxpayers should not have to subsidize the largest abortion provider in the country, namely Planned Parenthood of America."
Speaker of the House Boehner lines up behind Tea Party and reiterates refusal to negotiate on funding levels or policy riders
Speaker Boehner said he would continue to fight for the highest cuts he can get, with policy riders remaining in the discussion. And House Majority Leader Cantor already accused the White House Tuesday of setting up a shutdown by rejecting a short-term deal that would slash $12 billion and keep the government running for another week.
Yet that same day, the Republican Caucus in the House said it won’t allow another short-term CR without policy riders. Rep. Jordan, chairman of the RSC, said a prohibition of funds for abortion will be key in whether his group can support the one-week continuing resolution introduced by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Not only does the one-week CR include extreme policy riders, the cuts it proposes are also much harsher than the previous short-term CRs.
With Tea Party Republicans refusing to compromise, moderate rank-and-file GOP lawmakers said they were growing uneasy with another short-term deal, with many pushing House Republicans for an agreement to fund the government until the fiscal year ends on September 30.
Senate moderates on the Democratic side of the aisle also expressed frustration with the negotiations. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) said that "knowing that a bipartisan deal is within reach to cut tens of billions of dollars from current funding levels, it would be irresponsible to shut down the government and punish our constituents solely to assert a political point." This point was made to House Majority Leader Boehner by a group of senators led by Sen. Udall.
House Tea Party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) refuses to accept "compromise" of between $33 billion and $40 billion in cuts that was Republicans’ original offer while Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) encourages compromise
Rep. Bachmann pointed the finger at Democrats for refusing to compromise, yet she said that she will not support a suggested deal that would cut between $33 billion and $40 billion in federal spending because the compromise does not include the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. What’s more, as Sen. Reid’s spokesman explained: "The $33 billion is the number Republicans called for when they started budget negotiations." But Rep. Bachmann now insisted that the House-passed package of $61 billion in cuts should be considered a minimum starting point for much deeper cuts.
On the same day, Sen. Coburn urged his fellow Republicans in the House to compromise on policy riders, saying, "My recommendation to my friends in the House is, you know, it’s highly unlikely that many riders are going to get passed with a Democrat president and a Democrat Senate, so why don’t you take the spending and let’s get on to the budget."
Republicans reject three attempts to keep troops funded and the government open as negotiations continue
Instead of a GOP bill, which the Senate would not pass and the president threatened to veto because it included restrictions on abortion funding and other objectionable provisions, Democrats offered the GOP three "clean" alternatives to keep the government open and the troops funded for another week while negotiations on a final deal concluded. Republicans rejected all three.
Rep. Bachmann says GOP should drop extreme ideological riders and move a clean funding bill to keep troops funded, government open
Rep. Bachmann : "Well, my opinion is this: I think that we should have a clean bill that makes sure that the paycheck gets to the troops on time."
Another Tea Party representative signals willingness to shut down government over Planned Parenthood.
Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) called funding for Planned Parenthood "wasteful spending" and said he would oppose any deal that included such spending.
GOP insists on shutting down government over ideological riders
After agreeing to the Tea Party’s extreme demands on spending cuts, the last sticking point appears to be conservatives extreme opposition to environmental regulations and funding for Planned Parenthood and health care for millions of women-and men.