Continuing Resolutions Splitting Conservatives

Only sixteen Republicans voted against the latest CR. Most of them come from the libertarian or Tea Party wings of the Republican Party. Yet, are they any more principled than the conservatives in the party who voted for the latest CR?

By Rachel Alexander | March 13, 2013

As Congress fails year after year to agree upon an annual budget, the government is kept limping along through temporary Continuing Resolutions (CRs). The budget is supposed to be adopted each year by October 1st, the beginning of the fiscal year. Instead, Congress has been passing multiple stopgap funding measures each year. Under Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrats have not passed an annual budget since April 29, 2009. The CR was approved by a vote of 267 to 151, with most Republicans voting in favor and most Democrats opposed. Democrats voted against it because it included deep spending cuts and freezes.

On March 6th, 2012, only sixteen Republicans voted against the latest CR. Erick Erickson of Red State refers to the bulk of them as the “Conservative Fight Club.” Most of them come from the libertarian or Tea Party wings of the Republican Party.

Yet, are they any more principled than the conservatives in the party who voted for the latest CR? Conservative stalwarts like Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Steve King (R-Iowa) all voted for it.

The March 6th resolution authorizes $982 billion to keep the government running through September 30th. It will not affect the sequester, which remains in place. It relaxes the drastic cuts to the military, giving the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs more flexibility on where to make cuts. It restores $7 billion in cuts made to operations and maintenance accounts for the four military services hit hard by the automatic cuts that went into effect on March 1st. The CR allows the military about $7.1 billion more than the sequestration.

The Heritage Foundation found that the CR did not address national security concerns adequately, since it did not stop the impact of sequestration on military readiness. On the other hand, the American Conservative Union (ACU) supported the CR as long as the sequester remained intact. FreedomWorks, the Tea Party conservative group, took the opposite position of the ACU, and will count a “yes” vote against any member of Congress who voted for it. The group issued a press release which addressed the national security weakness of the CR, “We heard a lot of talk about protecting the defense budget on the House floor this morning, but the biggest threat to defense right now is a nation in crippling debt, on the verge of bankruptcy, a weakening dollar, and the threat of a lowered credit rating.”

Conservative Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), who recently returned to Congress, explained to Human Events that the question for Republicans in Congress “is whether we are willing to partially shut the government down to get to a lower level. We have made $83 billion in cuts this year, but it’s just a start. If we don’t [cut more], we’re going to end up like Greece.”

Obama and the Democrats like the repeated votes on CRs, because they put Republicans in endless Catch-22 situations. If Republicans vote for a CR, it looks like they are voting to continue bloating government. If they don’t vote for the CR, they risk another government shutdown, as happened in the mid-1990s, which made the GOP look bad and helped end Newt Gingrich’s career as Speaker of the House.

Voting against the CR because it continues to fund Obamacare isn’t as black and white as it looks either. It is a temporary budget resolution so it only continues to enable Obamacare for a few more months. It may seem clever to try and shut down Obamacare using a temporary budget resolution, but at what price? The Democrats will naturally require something in return in order to vote for a bill that defunds Obamacare, and it will either involve increased spending somewhere else or cuts to military spending. Similarly, some conservatives opposed the CR because it did not include language to prohibit Obama from implementing a regulation that would force Christian organizations to provide healthcare plans that cover contraception, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs.

A year ago, Rep. Bachmann said she would not vote for the CR presented at that time because it did not defund Obamacare. Bachmann is one of the most principled conservatives in the House. Since the current CR does not defund Obamacare, why did she change her vote this year? If she has held both positions on this, it speaks volumes about whether voting for a CR is definitively the fiscally conservative position. The issue is a lot more complex than it appears, and until the CRs are replaced with a real budget, Republicans are going to be put in this no-win position multiple times every year.

Rachel Alexander is the founder of the Intellectual Conservative and an attorney. Ms. Alexander is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis. See Book Reviews.