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The Post-Cantor Fall Out … Speculate and Wait and See

June 13, 2014

The most talked about event in DC this week was the defeat, in a primary election, of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. The outcome was so unexpected that no other news story came close. And unlike many such shake-ups — where the mere possibility sends pundits into pre-election tizzy — no one had focused on a Cantor defeat as even a remote possibility.

It is hard to imagine that anyone reading this analysis is not aware of the multiple potential consequences of the Cantor defeat — for Republican politics, for the 2014 and 2016 elections, and for management of the House of Representatives. As the week ended, one of the unknowns is whether the Ryan-Murray budget deal, non-defense appropriations bills, and even the FDA will be among those impacted.

The decision to pull the Agriculture/FDA appropriations bill from the House calendar for next week is the source of the uncertainty. Does it represent difficulties in moving forward on some “hot-button” agriculture amendments — school lunch comes to mind, but there are a lot that generate controversy? This is absolutely plausible given the contentiousness of the subcommittee and committee mark-ups in debating just such issues.

But early on, before the post-Cantor drama has fully unfolded, there is another, equally plausible possibility. We are left to wonder — perhaps not for long — whether House conservatives decided to block consideration of any non-defense spending bills for the next few weeks. Presumably, their goal would be to figure out whether the new environment is favorable to returning to the budgetary hard-line posture they had taken during the shut-down and before the Ryan-Murray budget agreement took most of the drama out of the FY 15 appropriations cycle. If they have the votes, we may well be looking at a suddenly-contentious appropriations cycle with increased prospects for a mini-omnibus or a continuing resolution.

This is one of those truly strange political moments that recur in Washington. Either the current delay in consideration of Ag/FDA appropriations is all about the bill … or it has nothing to do with the bill at all. We will see.

Note: This week’s Analysis and Commentary was written by Steven Grossman, the deputy executive director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA

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