Congress has been through two bruising showdowns over the government's finances so far this year. As government funding is scheduled to expire at the end of September, a third may be on the way. House Republicans, though, are showing signs that they've lost some of their drive to risk a federal shutdown.
The debt ceiling deal signed into law on August 2 includes spending caps for the next 10 years, including a $1.043 trillion cap on discretionary spending for fiscal year 2012. That's a cut from 2011 levels, but not enough for some conservatives hoping to slash more from immediate spending. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor—a leader among conservative House Republicans—nevertheless urged his party to pass a full-year budget for 2012, at the level set by the debt ceiling bill. "While all of us would like to have seen a lower discretionary appropriations ceiling for the upcoming fiscal year, the debt limit agreement did set a level of spending that is a real cut from the current year level," Cantor wrote.
With both the White House and Republican leadership on the same page on the amount that should be spent in 2012, it's hard to imagine them getting into a showdown over whether they should cut further. But there's still plenty to fight about. House Republicans may want to reduce funding for certain agencies or restrict funding over social issues like abortion. In fact, by focusing on only those issues, the GOP might have a better hand to force the Obama administration into policy concessions.