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Boehner sends mixed messages on shutdown

Sep. 26, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
Boehner, House Leaders Speak To Press After Republ
U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner listens to House Republican colleagues speak at a press conference Sept. 26 in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee / Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner sent mixed messages Thursday about the prospects for a US government shutdown.

Speaking to reporters following a closed-door session with his Republican caucus, Boehner urged the Senate to approve a House-passed continuing resolution (CR) to keep the Pentagon and other federal agencies open through Dec. 15 that also would cut funding for Obamacare.

“No, I do not see that happening,” Boehner said when asked if he believes a government shutdown is likely.

Yet, when asked if House Republicans would shift their fight over the president’s signature health care law to a coming battle over raising the nation’s borrowing limit and pass the Senate’s so-called “clean CR” that will not contain the Obamacare-killing language, Boehner was defiant.

“I don’t see that happening,” the speaker said, later refusing to discuss how the shutdown drama will play out in the House until the Senate passes its version of the temporary spending bill.

That could happen by midday Saturday. Senate Democratic leaders, in a surprise move, late Wednesday placed their CR on a fast track.

For the Pentagon and US defense sector, a shutdown would close government-owned facilities. Industry officials warn that would cause productivity to suffer, and costs to rise.

What’s more, any contracts the Defense Department had planned to award would be on hold, a potential blow to some weapon manufacturers.

As House GOP leaders search for a combination of CR provisions that would allow a short-term government funding measure to pass their fiscally conservative caucus, Senate Republicans have begun lobbying for the final version of the bill to contain lower federal agency spending levels.

“I’d sure like for the final package to be a smaller number,” Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told Defense News on Wednesday. “$967 [billion], that’s what I’d like.”

Other Senate Republicans say they may support a CR that locks in Pentagon and other federal agency annual budget levels at post-sequester levels.

While it is unclear if this option is attractive to Boehner, he routinely references during public remarks, as he did on Thursday, what he and House Republicans see as “Washington’s spending problem.”

Appearing Thursday morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. — who says he “never votes for CRs” — also called for new spending reductions.

“There can’t be a sweetener that gets me unless the CR is totally cutting spending and creating spending for the whole rest of the year, and directing that spending,” Coburn said. “And giving some flexibility to the managers to actually make good decisions.”

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