Roll Call's Ben Pershing discusses the possibility of a Dem-Bush showdown after the Aug. recess that many voices (mainly on the right) are saying could lead to a government shutdown like what happened in '95.
Here's the link to the (subscription req) Roll Call article:
And here's the WSJ article they also mentioned:Both Sides Prep For Repeat of ’95The coming appropriations veto battle between the president and Congress already appears to be the most significant spending scrum since the partial government shutdown in 1995, and both sides are preparing to point fingers if there is a repeat of history. ...
Hurdles Await Congress After Recess
Spending Measures Come Under Threat of Presidential Veto
WASHINGTON -- Congress's Democratic majority made major strides toward implementing its domestic agenda before going home, but will face a large hurdle when lawmakers return at summer's end: President Bush.
Farm, lobbying reform, energy, education and child health insurance bills all advanced in a volatile 10-day march before the recess, establishing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a legislative player. "She was Jaws," joked Rep. George Miller (D., Calif.) after watching the speaker move around the House floor rounding up votes for the energy bill, her "flagship" priority.
But in the rush to adjourn, Republican anger erupted over a miscalled, late-night House vote. And come September, Democrats dread the prospect of reconciling a dozen spending measures, most of which face veto threats from the president. "I'm waiting for August never to end," sighed Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.).
The new Democratic majority is determined to avoid the sort of government shutdown Washington experienced when Republicans took over Congress in 1995 and challenged then-President Clinton. But the situation is more unpredictable today because of the relative weakness of both sides, and the Iraq war added to the political equation.
The war's impact is twofold. Mr. Bush's fall in the polls because of the war appears to have fed his desire for a confrontation over spending to shore up his support on the right. "He's desperate for a fight," said Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic caucus.
At the same time, the emotions stirred by Iraq -- and antiwar pressures from the left -- lead Democrats to be more confrontational with the president even when they know they need to find compromises on domestic issues.
"It's a split screen," admits Mr. Emanuel, who served in the Clinton White House.
With a new fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, all these forces will come to bear quickly next month. Before adjourning early yesterday morning, the House approved a $459.6 billion Pentagon budget that will be a major bargaining chip as Democrats try to hold on to an estimated $22 billion that they have added to the president's spending requests for domestic agencies
House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D., Wis.) admits the $22 billion is a "high water mark" for Democrats. "Our numbers aren't set in stone, I would like to have a deal," Mr. Obey said. But the added domestic spending should be judged, he argued, alongside the president's own added requests for the war and a new set of arms sales in the Middle East.
Much depends on a report to Congress in mid-September from the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus. But the White House long ago requested $141.7 billion to keep funding war operations after Oct. 1, and that price tag is rising.
The Pentagon wants $5.3 billion more to buy mine-resistant armored vehicles, and Mr. Obey predicted that foreign-aid requests could swell by about $5 billion to help finance proposed Mideast arms sales. The biggest variable is the fact that the $141.7 billion request isn't sufficient to maintain current troop levels in Iraq past Sept. 30.
If these operations and personnel costs are factored in, some estimates indicate it could add as much as $30 billion on an annual basis.
While the House has completed all 12 of its annual spending bills, the Senate lags far behind with little chance of meeting the Oct. 1 deadline. In the past, Congress has relied on stopgap measures to keep the government funded, but that will be harder to do this year.
Ms. Pelosi is determined not to go down this path for long, since it freezes spending at current levels and undercuts her party's domestic initiatives. The Pentagon would also be unhappy since it has assumed a $40 billion-plus increase in its core budget after Oct. 1.
With so many moving pieces, including the pressure from some Democrats to fund the war on more of a short-term basis, the risk of a legislative train wreck only increases.
At the same time, the departure of White House Budget Director Rob Portman, who was respected in Congress, has left a serious void. The Senate went home without confirming Mr. Portman's successor, former Iowa Rep. Jim Nussle. Mr. Nussle's combative history contributed to this delay, but the end result is no Cabinet-level budget negotiator will be in place until he is confirmed.
Mr. Bush needs the support of little more than one third of Congress to sustain any vetoes, but the larger political fight will be determined on the broader question of who is seen by voters as trying to reach consensus and who is not.
Republicans were hurt in 1995, for example, when their speaker, Newt Gingrich, was seen as being too aggressive and bullying toward Mr. Clinton. Today, the Senate's sharp-tongued Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) is a target for Republicans, whose leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) casts himself as a gentler figure more willing to reason.
Ms. Pelosi is a harder target and avoids showing any personal animus toward the president. "We get along great, we really do," she says. Republicans were furious and walked off the House floor Thursday when a vote was mistakenly called early by Democrats. The leadership issued an apology and accepted a request for a bipartisan panel to look into the matter.
To the extent Democrats have used tax increases or loophole closings to help pay for added spending, it has been harder to get Republican votes. But between two and three dozen Republicans joined with Ms. Pelosi on some of the key energy votes Saturday, and before going home, Senate Democrats won a bipartisan 68-31 vote for their children's health-insurance bill.
House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio has urged an aggressive veto strategy, but the sequence of floor votes last month on the labor, health and education funding bill is telling of where his fellow Republicans stand.
No Republican proposed to cut to the level Mr. Bush proposed, about $3.6 billion below this year. Instead the toughest Republican amendment was a freeze -- and that got just 136 votes, less than a third of the House. When Republicans seem most comfortable -- and consistently get a third of the House -- has been supporting amendments cutting 1% from the Democratic bills.