Political strategist Karl Rove is advising Republican lawmakers to pass a continuing resolution next week ahead of the looming budget sequester, a move he believes will show that the GOP is acting responsibly in the face of the automatic spending cuts scheduled to take place March 1.
"My own recommendation is that House Republicans should pass a continuing resolution next week to fund the government for the balance of the fiscal year at the lower level dictated by the sequester — with language granting the executive branch the flexibility to move funds from less vital activities to more important ones," Rove writes in a op-ed piece published Thursday in The Wall Street Journal
"True, Mr. Obama may use that flexibility to cut spending that Republicans favor. Still, the GOP will be acting responsibly, and perhaps by doing so will put the president and Congressional Democrats a bit on the defensive," Rove added.
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Rove also urged Republican leaders "to keep setting the record straight" on the sequester issue by reminding the public that it was Obama who first proposed the automatic cuts during debt limit negotiations with Congress in the summer of 2011, even though Republicans went along with the idea.
Interestingly, the GOP-controlled House Appropriations Committee is already taking steps to avoid a possible government shutdown on March 27, when the current stopgap spending measure expires, by drafting legislation that would fund the government through Sept. 30, according to The New York Times.
The measure, however, would not stop the first wave of $85 billion in across-the-board cuts due to start March 1. But it could include, as Rove suggested, language that would allow the administration some flexibility to set spending priorities to address the loss of funding through sequestration.
In his op-ed piece, Rove suggested that Republicans appear to be confused over how to deal with the sequester, with some lawmakers worrying about looming defense cuts in their districts and others actually welcoming the automatic cuts as a way to do what Congress has so far been unable or unwilling to do on its own — cut spending dramatically to reduce the deficit.
"Congressional Republicans are simultaneously united, divided, and confused about the $85 billion of cuts in defense and domestic discretionary spending that begin on March 1 when the budget sequester takes effect," Rove said.
But he added, "Republicans are united in their dislike of across-the-board cuts but understand that this is the only way now to restrain federal spending."
Rove, who engineered former President George W. Bush's two presidential campaigns, warned that Republicans would have to adopt a "proactive strategy" to win over public opinion that shows they are "committed to restrain spending, make cuts as smartly as possible, and keep the government running.
"It won't be easy," he added, "given the president's intrinsic advantages and bigger megaphone."
But, he said, "the Republicans only have the facts on their side. Sometimes that's enough."
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