House Bill Temporarily Averts Government Shutdown

The House voted to keep the government funded for two more weeks Tuesday — temporarily averting a shutdown. The budget measure now goes to the Senate, where a vote is expected Wednesday. But that only sets the stage for the real fight. Many of the Republicans elected last November with Tea Party support seem ready for a showdown.

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We still can't say for certain when Congress will agree on a budget for the fiscal year, now almost half over. This week, lawmakers are approving a temporary spending measure, allowing time to negotiate. The House voted in favor, yesterday, the Senate is expected to vote today; that clears the way for a bigger debate over spending for the budget year.

And as NPR's Ted Robbins reports, many Republicans, elected last November with Tea Party support, seem ready for a showdown.

TED ROBBINS: The two-week extension is a win for the new Republican-controlled House. It came with $4 billion in cuts. But the House wants that as a down payment of sorts, for the 61 billion in cuts it passed last month in a funding bill for the rest of the year. The Democratic-controlled Senate rejected that as too deep. And two weeks may not be long enough to hammer out the differences.

Freshman Republican David Schweikert of Arizona says if it isnt, hes willing to keep chipping away two weeks and $4 billion at a time.

Represent DAVID SCHWEIKERT (Republican, Arizona): Yeah, its not a great way to run a government. Its absolutely silly. Particularly, you know, when you consider products and services that are purchased through the government, telling people its only a two-week contract. But if the Senate cant get their act together, we just keep doing what we have to do.

ROBBINS: Schweikert says hell cut government spending however he can. The promise of less government is what got him and other Tea Party Republicans elected. Schweikert even says hes even willing to sacrifice some of his own desires - repealing the Health Care law, defunding Planned Parenthood - if it means the Senate finds other places to cut.

Rep. SCHWEIKERT: We all have our certain ideological pitches of things wed like to see, and see in or out of the spending. But its the dollar amount that seems to be the driving passion. You know, Im a social conservative, but its that dollar amount right now, 'cause thats the moral imperative.

ROBBINS: Besides, says Schweikert, therell be plenty of other opportunities to make policy changes.

Eventually, says House Republican freshman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, Defense spending, Medicare, Social Security, any program is worth scrutiny.

Representative TREY GOWDY (Republican, South Carolina): Anything and everything that restores efficiency and, in my judgment, shrinks the size and scope of government to its appropriate bounds, is fair game.

ROBBINS: Another House freshman, Republican Cory Gardner of Colorado, says putting cuts on the table is a huge shift from previous years. He says his constituents want reduced spending, even if it means reduced services.

Representative CORY GARDNER (Republican, Colorado): When we talk about whats happening in this country, from the level of we have no money, many of these cuts were suggested by the president as well - that people are understanding. And nobody likes to see their program get cut, but they know its better than a future of economic collapse as a result of our debt.

ROBBINS: Gardner is reluctant to compromise, and not just with Democrats in the Senate. He has a problem if House Republican leadership tries to compromise too much.

Rep. GARDNER: If leadership compromises away our spending cuts, then theres going to be an effort to make sure that leadership gets the message: that were not going to stand for a slide away from spending cuts.

ROBBINS: President Obama suggested many of the $4 billion cuts in the two week bill, identifying that spending as wasteful; so it shouldnt be too tough a sell in the Senate. But Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said the president will try to convince the public of the need to compromise on further spending cuts.

Senator HARRY REID (D-NV, Majority Leader): I think that we have to find agreement. I think the president feels that we have to find agreement. The president is going to take this to the American people, because the only message that we have from the Republicans is to wipe out programs that are so important to people; especially people who can't help themselves, the middle-class.

ROBBINS: The reductions on the table now deal only with discretionary spending, a small part of the budget. And they deal only with this year. That leaves trillions of dollars in mounting debt for another day.

Ted Robbins, NPR News, Washington.

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