Government Shutdown Now Looks Unlikely

Politico reports that a deal has been reached that looks likely to avoid a government shutdown and finally resolve the FY 2011 budget:

Threats of a government shutdown next week had all but disappeared by late Friday as Democrats reacted favorably to a Republican plan that would keep agencies operating past Mar. 4 while making a first down payment toward a larger budget deal.

The two-week peace is only temporary but gives House and Senate leaders through Mar 18 to try to resolve conservative demands for more than $60 billion in spending cuts, all concentrated in the second half of this fiscal year.

A first installment of $4 billion in savings would be part of the deal now and Republicans have said they will insist on $2 billion more in cuts for each additional week the talks continue past the new deadline. The novel approach is one devised by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), trying to keep pace with his large freshman class while avoiding the same sort of shutdown that so hurt Republicans in the 1990’s when they confronted then President Bill Clinton.

Senate Democrats bitterly resent Boehner’s approach, saying he is holding the government hostage, nibbling away with weekly ransom demands to placate his tea party supporters. But the speaker carefully confined his first demands to the least painful cuts, and in an amusing turnabout, Democrats rushed to take credit for an idea they had seemed ready to go to war over days before.

“The plan Republicans are floating today sounds like a modified version of what Democrats were talking about,” said a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “We’re glad they think it’s a good idea.”

About $2.7 billion of the proposed savings would come from rescinding unspent funds, such as water projects and local economic initiatives, earmarked by past Congresses. The remaining third, or $1.24 billion, is attributed to eight terminations, impacting broadband loan subsidies and various smaller education programs, as well as $650 million from a general spending account financed through the highway trust fund.

Many of the reductions are lifted from Obama’s own budget proposals, making it harder for Democrats to protest. And in conference calls this week, Republican leaders have tried to school their freshmen to keep faith with this first step and not bolt suddenly to force a shutdown.

The 19-page resolution, introduced late Friday, is slated to come to the House floor as early as next Tuesday and the goal will be to complete action in Congress prior to the funding cutoff slated Mar. 4.

“There is now a clear path to finishing this short-term measure before the Mar. 4th deadline,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. And working with Boehner, the Kentucky Republican is well positioned to block any attempt by Reid to do other than the House bill.

Frankly, I’m a little surprised, but it’s good John Boehner at least learned from Newt Gingrich’s stupid mistakes in 1995.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.