WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Tea Party Republicans who led the charge into a 16-day government shutdown last year are now taking a more pragmatic approach as they weigh options how to fight President Barack Obama’s immigration order.
Pushed by their dissident wing, Republicans blocked government funding in September 2013 in a bid to stop Obama’s healthcare reform law, but now numerous Tea Party members appear reluctant to take the battle over immigration that far.
Instead, even the most strident conservative Republicans are talking about a short-term funding fix that would keep the government running into early next year, when the party takes control of the Senate.
The government’s funding authority expires on Dec. 11 providing possible leverage to opponents of Obama’s plan to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to stay and work in the United States.
But more subdued rhetoric suggests they have little appetite for a repeat of what one conservative Republican described as “an epic battle” that pitted Washington versus America.”
“I don’t think anybody is thinking about a shutdown,” said Representative Raul Labrador, an influential Tea Party Republican who voted against the deal to end last year’s shutdown.
Still, Labrador suggested that House Speaker John Boehner tipped his hand by proposing to secure full-year funding for all agencies, with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security, which would only get a short-term extension.
“In negotiations, you never take anything off the table,” he said.
Representative Marlin Stutzman, who also advocated a hard line on Obamacare last year, however, backed Boehner’s two-tier approach that secures most government funding through September 2015, but gives Republicans some leverage next year.
Boehner’s plan appeals to many conservatives because it stresses the opportunities that will open up with full Republican control of Congress next year.
Even those who disagree, are still fine with a short term extension until January, when the Republicans will hold leverage over Obama on immigration, regulation and healthcare and be able to pass spending bills that better reflect their priorities.
“The cavalry is coming,” said Jim Jordan, a prominent conservative Republican from Ohio. “Let’s go for a short period of time and wait for our friends to get over in the Senate.”
Representative Randy Hultgren of Illinois, another conservative who voted against reopening the government last year, said there was “no appetite” for a shutdown.
“We’re taking this issue seriously but also realising that we’ve got limited options and making sure that we are wise in using those options,” he said.