Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on Government Operations, said the threat of another government shutdown has not pushed members of Congress any closer to the budget negotiating table.
It’s a lack of leadership on Capitol Hill, he said, that emboldens some partisan members to hold budget talks hostage until their demands are met.
“I don’t think anybody knows how we’re going to get on a path to full funding of the government,” Connolly told In Depth with Francis Rose, in an exclusive interview. “I don’t think you can rule out, unfortunately, the prospect of another shutdown.”
Much like the government shutdown of 2013, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) find themselves in open conflict with Republican members.
“They by no means want to see another shutdown, but I don’t think that’s reflective of the far right of their base,” Connolly said. “So you have people like [Rep.] Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) saying frankly defunding Planned Parenthood is worth shutting down the government, you have [Sen.] Ted Cruz (R-Texas) saying the same.”
It remains to be seen when Congress will pass the 12 spending bills needed to ensure funding for fiscal 2016, which starts on Oct. 1.
Connolly said the best-case scenario right now would be for Congress to approve a continuing resolution that would keep funding the federal government at pre-existing levels, until it agrees on a comprehensive spending plan.
“I would predict that, at the 11th hour, we will be asked to vote on something. And I would predict that that something will require an overwhelming majority of Democrats and a substantial minority of Republicans to pass,” Connolly said. “We need a clean CR with fair and reasonable funding levels, and I don’t see why that’s a difficult challenge, but in the current climate, it is.”
Boehner faces a dilemma that jeopardizes his leadership role in the House, similar to the one that nearly cost him the office in 2013.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), just one day before Congress’ August recess, made a motion to declare the Office of the Speaker vacant, which would effectively force Boehner from the leadership.
Meadows also serves as the chairman of House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on Government Operations. Connolly said he holds a positive working relationship with him.
“We’re friends, we’re good colleagues. We consult with each other on the business of the subcommittee … we’re very different people. I’m a progressive Democrat, he’s a very conservative Republican, but we do share a sense of decency and civility that needs to be returned to the Congress, and I think Mark [Meadows] sincerely wants to get something done while he’s here in Congress. That’s the party I belong to, the Get It Done party,” Connolly said.