Republican leaders in the Senate are rallying around legislation introduced by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) to automatically fund the federal government in the event Congress fails to approve its spending bills for the year.
The bill would prevent the federal government from shutting down if the two parties engage in a protracted spending fight. But there's a catch: The legislation would fund the government at the previous year's level, allowing conservatives to trim federal spending once inflation is factored in.
As such, it would be a big bargaining chip for the GOP in the potential showdown with majority Democrats and could provide safe harbor weeks from now when members of that majority accuse Republicans of obstruction and shutting down the government. (In other words, don't expect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to embrace this any time soon.)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky,) and the other elected leaders embraced the legislation during a press conference on Thursday, and his House counterpart, Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), told reporters he has been a long time supporter of the principle.
DeMint introduces this bill as Republicans at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue lay the foundation for a potential spending fight later this fall if Democrats don't yield to White House requests not to exceed the president's budget request. Conservative House members traveled to the White House Thursday to chat with President Bush about the likely spending fight.
DeMint introduced the actual bill earlier this month, the same day his conservative House colleagues, led by Republican Study Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas, dropped similar legislation in the House.