Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Republicans that they will have to negotiate with Democrats over spending levels.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned Republicans that they will have to negotiate with Democrats over spending levels. Evan Vucci/AP

McConnell: GOP Will Barter Over Automatic Spending Cuts

The Senate majority leader suggested the two parties would negotiate over lifting budget caps, rather than passing a long-term continuing resolution.

As Con­gress pre­pares to pass a short-term con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion, put­ting off a gov­ern­ment shut­down for a few months, Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell warned Re­pub­lic­ans Wed­nes­day that they’ll have to ne­go­ti­ate with Demo­crats to roll back loom­ing spend­ing cuts later this year.

“We are in­ev­it­ably go­ing to end up in ne­go­ti­ations that will crack the Budget Con­trol Act once again,” Mc­Con­nell said dur­ing a press con­fer­ence on Wed­nes­day. “Now let me just say this about the Budget Con­trol Act. Be­fore we star­ted re­vis­it­ing it, it ac­tu­ally did a pretty good job. We re­duced gov­ern­ment spend­ing for two years in a row for the first time since the Korean War. … But there’s a lot of pres­sure in Con­gress to spend more; the ad­min­is­tra­tion cer­tainly wants to spend more.”

Passing a clean con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion in the next few weeks, which Mc­Con­nell again em­phas­ized should not in­clude meas­ures favored by con­ser­vat­ives to end fund­ing for Planned Par­ent­hood, “will give time for us to en­gage with the ad­min­is­tra­tion in de­term­in­ing how much we’re go­ing to spend and where we’re go­ing to spend it” later this year, he said.

Though he called it “un­for­tu­nate,” Mc­Con­nell said his warn­ing was born of prac­tic­al­ity. Demo­crats blocked sev­er­al spend­ing meas­ures earli­er this year, telling Re­pub­lic­ans that they would not pass any new fund­ing bills un­less the ma­jor­ity agreed to turn back se­quest­ra­tion cuts on nondefense pro­grams. And, Mc­Con­nell said, Pres­id­ent Obama is “in a key po­s­i­tion” to veto any new spend­ing bills that al­low se­quest­ra­tion cuts to go through as planned.

Many con­ser­vat­ives in both cham­bers would rather see an­oth­er con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion passed later this year or early next year than to raise the spend­ing caps for nondefense pro­grams. But Mc­Con­nell, a Sen­ate tra­di­tion­al­ist, has long pushed for Con­gress to go through the reg­u­lar ap­pro­pri­ations pro­cess and pass new spend­ing bills. That, he said, will re­quire com­prom­ise. But not just with Demo­crats.

“We’ll be forced in­to a dis­cus­sion about how much we’re go­ing to spend,” Mc­Con­nell said. “We know our Demo­crat­ic friends’ goal is to spend more money on everything. As all of you know, I’ve got mem­bers who want to spend more on de­fense—I put my­self in that group as well—and we’ll enter in­to a clas­sic ne­go­ti­ation. We can work out our dif­fer­ences and fund the gov­ern­ment.”

Mc­Con­nell’s an­nounce­ment is a coup for Demo­crats who have been block­ing spend­ing bills for months to force the lead­er to sit down at the table with them and hash out a se­quest­ra­tion-re­lief plan for both de­fense and nondefense spend­ing.

With se­quest­ra­tion caps threat­en­ing de­fense spend­ing as well, some Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­ors, in­clud­ing Lind­sey Gra­ham and John Mc­Cain, have already be­gun talks with Demo­crat­ic mem­bers to find a com­prom­ise. But it is much less clear how the House will re­act to fund­ing bills that raise spend­ing caps for nondefense pro­grams and wheth­er there are enough votes in that cham­ber to pass such le­gis­la­tion.