Virginia Republican Rep. Dave Brat says the fight over Planned Parenthood funding is a distraction from looming spending hikes that could blow up caps that have been in place since 2013.
The freshman congressman, a noted fiscal hawk, said recently the possibility of a government shutdown on Oct. 1 has been "on the calendar" for months. In a recent television appearance, Brat, a member of the House Budget Committee, called the issue a "shiny object" that is drawing attention away from bipartisan plans to bust the so-called sequestration spending caps.
Asked for clarification Monday, Brat's office said the plan to bust the spending caps has been in place for months.
"Leadership wants to do away with the sequester caps," Jack Minor Jr., Brat's communications director, told AMI Newswire. "We are almost certainly going to be breaking them."
Asked whether the leadership has changed its strategy on the budget since Speaker of the House John Boehner announced his resignation last week, Minor said, "The approach has not changed, though it seems to be public that the speaker is planning on punting on this, keeping the government open with a 'clean' continuing resolution until December when the new leadership team can tackle it."
Minor was elaborating on comments Brat made earlier this month in an appearance on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal."
"The whole premise of a shutdown over Planned Parenthood is wrong," Brat told viewers. "It's calculated on the calendar when you're going to have a shutdown and when all this drama and theatrics are going to break forth."
Brat said the budget committee approved a federal budget that would be in balance after 10 years. After the House passed the budget, nothing more was heard of it.
Brat spokesman Minor told AMI Newswire the budget work was completed "long before the Planned Parenthood videos surfaced." But he added that even after the controversial videos made headlines, "[House] Leadership has not consulted the committee on that budget, nor what the plan is for funding the government in the next fiscal year."
In his C-SPAN interview, Brat asserted the public and acrimonious fight over federal funding for Planned Parenthood is a "false narrative" used to take the focus off what has been in the cards all along: growing government through passage of an omnibus spending bill at the end of the year.
"This whole thing is constructed ahead of time, it's on the calendar, and you find a shiny object to blame on the budget process," Brat said. "D.C. likes to break budget caps because they want to grow."
Brat said Rep. Tom Cole told Republican members before the August recess, "There were going to be three really tough votes coming up: break the budget caps; increase the debt ceiling, with no discipline attached [or] a balanced budget or something like that; and we have to do something with this six-year, long-term transportation funding. So how do you avoid taking three tough votes on those three, any one of which can cause headaches? Well, you throw them all into one."
Minor added, "The aim has been to bust the spending caps, raise the debt ceiling, pass a three-month continuing resolution, then give everyone what they want in an omnibus bill."
The last partial shutdown of the federal government lasted 16 days in 2013. A 2014 Government Accountability Office report on the economic effects of the shutdown requested by Sen. Mark Warner found only a limited impact due to the shutdown's short duration, and it determined that all non-essential federal workers were retroactively compensated for their furlough days.