Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell takes pride in his reputation as a great compromiser. But the Republican leader won’t concede on one point: He refuses to let conservatives fight the White House for lower spending levels.
McConnell, R-Ky., outlined his political roadmap for government spending on Tuesday, sketching out the routes he sees available: an omnibus package, individual appropriations bills, or a government shutdown.
“Here’s the choice: You either pass each individual appropriations bill or you pass the omnibus, which gives the president all the power, and the ability, to argue that somehow we’re shutting down the government if we don’t go along with it,” McConnell told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute.
McConnell’s remarks come as both chambers of Congress struggle to pass spending bills. Rather than approve all government spending through a one-and-done omnibus package, Republicans have tried to fund the government through 12 individual appropriations bills.
So far, it hasn’t gone so well.
Conservatives complain that GOP leadership caved to President Barack Obama when Congress increased spending by $30 billion last year above limits in the 2011 Budget Control Act. Instead, they want the GOP-led House and Senate to reduce discretionary spending from $1.07 trillion to $1.04 trillion.
But with a Democrat in the White House, McConnell said conservatives are being unreasonable. To try to reduce spending, he predicted, would risk a government shutdown.
“Unfortunately, my party owns the government shutdown brand,” McConnell said, referring to a 2013 episode when Congress, led by conservatives, withheld government funding in protest of Obamacare. The Republican leader added, “It’s not a good brand.”