From today's headlines, two different approaches to the budget fight seem to have emerged within the GOP's ranks.
The first: no more stopgaps. For the last month, temporary funding measures have avoided a government shutdown. Tea partiers and fiscal hawks in the House don't want any more of these, and they're willing to shut the government down. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) feels that way, too. From the AP:
The No. 2 Republican in the House said Tuesday that the chamber won't pass another short-term federal funding bill to avert a government shutdown if talks between the GOP and the White House fail to produce a 2011 spending agreement by an April 8 deadline.
Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia said "time is up" and that it's up to Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate to offer significant spending cuts as part of legislation to fund the government for the rest of the budget year.
"We're going to need to see a deal struck where our members can go home and tell their constituents that we're doing what we said we would do," Cantor said.
The second: find an alliance with moderate and conservative Democrats to avoid a shutdown and pass another temporary measure, if a longer-term deal (to fund the government through September) can't be reached. From The Washington Post's Paul Kane:
Having difficulty finding consensus within their own ranks, House Republican leaders have begun courting moderate Democrats on several key fiscal issues, including a deal to avoid a government shutdown at the end of next week. ...
Speaker John A. Boehner's leadership team recognizes that legislation that meets with approval from his most conservative flank -- what Democrats call the "perfectionist caucus" -- would be dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Boehner and Cantor appear to have taken different sides on this. While supposed rivalry between the two is a storyline Democrats have pushed for some years now, it looks like a substantive difference of opinion is forming over how to proceed.
The speaker has long said that he doesn't want a shutdown, taking a realist approach on how to move things closer to the hawkish ideal. Cantor, on the other hand, wants to play hardball (or harder ball) politics.
Both are looking for a way to live up to campaign promises and cut billions from the federal budget. But there appears to be a divide in GOP leadership over how to get there.
The last time the House voted on a temporary measure, 54 Republicans voted against it. The measure needed Democratic votes to pass. If a new deal isn't reached by April 8, and Boehner still wants to avoid a shutdown, he will need Democratic votes to do it. This much we know.
Drop-down thumbnail credit: Jason Reed/Reuters