With Eight Days To Go, Can Congress Avoid Another Government Shutdown?
Congress has just over a week to pass a funding bill, and it's not looking very good.
At some point within the next eight days, Congress will either have to pass the Federal Budget for the next Fiscal Year, which seems unlikely at this point, or pass a Continuing Resolution that will allow the government to continue operating until a final budget deal can be reached. Just as we’ve seen in the past, what should be a routine Congressional function is being bogged down by members of the House and Senate who see the budget process, and most importantly the impending deadline of October 1st, as an opportunity to score political points. Two years ago, of course, the crisis was prompted by an effort to “defund” the Affordable Care Act led by Senator Ted Cruz and others notwithstanding the fact that leadership in both the House and the Senate said the effort could never succeed. This time around, the argument is over the Federal Government’s funding of Planned Parenthood, which amounts to roughly $500 million in a budget of nearly $4 trillion. As was the case two years ago, the leadership in both chambers says that they will not allow a shutdown to take place, and Mitch McConnell has said that the GOP does not have the votes to strip Planned Parenthood funding from the budget. Whether they will be able to hold off the more conservative members of Congress, though, is an open question,
As that battle heads toward its final hours, Senate Republicans are hoping to be able to get a clean funding bill passed, but it’s unclear if they’ll be able to succeed:
Mitch McConnell is taking control as the government hurtles toward a shutdown.
The Senate majority leader is preparing to flip the script to avoid a lapse in federal funding on Oct. 1, a legislative strategy that threatens to confront House Republicans with a do-or-die vote right at the deadline to keep the government open.
McConnell set up a vote for Thursday that would fund the government through Dec. 11 while gutting federal funding for Planned Parenthood and boosting defense spending by $13 billion. That legislation will fail due to Democratic opposition, allowing McConnell to argue that Senate Republicans tried the hardline tactic proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) but it couldn’t. McConnell could then turn to a “clean” funding bill that Democrats are vowing to support.
“There’s going to be votes to defund Planned Parenthood. But I think given the president’s opposition and Democrats’ opposition, at some point I anticipate there will be a clean (continuing resolution),” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters. “But, that’s not the end of the fight over late-term abortions and over Planned Parenthood.”
But first, McConnell agreed to test Cruz’s approach.
“It would keep the government funded through the fall while adhering to the bipartisan spending levels already agreed to by both parties,” McConnell said Tuesday after he began to implement his shutdown prevention plan. “And, for one year, it would defund Planned Parenthood and protect women’s health by funding community health clinics with that $235 million instead. This would allow us to press the ‘pause’ button as we investigate the serious scandal surrounding Planned Parenthood.”
There’s a growing realization that the Republican-controlled Senate, which had long planned to hang back until it sees what kind of funding bill the House could pass, will have to move first on averting a government shutdown. But the conservative disarray in the House is forcing the more deliberative, slow-moving Senate to fire the first volley.
A clean CR would draw major flak from conservatives who are urging the GOP to seize on the backlash at Planned Parenthood over secret videos depicting officials allegedly discussing sales of fetal body parts. But McConnell is operating under the assumption that most of those hardliners would have opposed his plan, anyway, and aides seem confident that the leader has enough GOP supporters to pass a funding bill before Oct. 1.
Still, even McConnell’s closest confidantes are uncertain. Asked Tuesday whether a clean stopgap funding bill can pass the Senate, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), No. 3 in Senate leadership, replied: “We’ll find out.”
By moving first, the Senate has more time to clear through the procedural hoops in the chamber – allotting just a handful of days before a shutdown to throw the funding hot potato into the House’s lap. The move would put the onus on the lower chamber to prevent a federal shutdown. It would also let McConnell breath easier that opponents like Cruz can’t throw sand in the gears at the last moment.
But there’s no guarantee that the House will accept what the Senate sends over. And there’s no guarantee Cruz won’t fight McConnell tooth and nail, as he has done all year.
Asked about leadership’s plan to move on a clean CR, Cruz declined to commit to a drawn-out “talking” filibuster, but appeared to be girding for battle. In a note of irony, Cruz presided over the Senate as McConnell began to set up an end game to avoid a shutdown.
“We should stand for principle and not capitulate to President Obama,” Cruz told reporters.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a rival of Cruz’s in the GOP primary whom McConnell has endorsed for president, said he will oppose any plan by leadership to avoid the Planned Parenthood fight.
“I won’t vote for anything that’s got Planned Parenthood in it and I won’t vote for a CR. … It’s bad government,” Paul told reporters.
Republicans don’t know exactly how it will unfold. Though GOP senators have been speaking with their House colleagues about the end game, the level of coordination hasn’t been so high to sooth fears of a shutdown. The House isn’t even in session until Thursday, less than a week before the government runs out of money.
“I just know there’s a deadline. But I think you can expect to see some activity soon,” Cornyn said.
Congress doesn’t really have a lot of time before we reached the deadline at midnight on September 30th after which the Federal Government will no longer have the authority to spend money without a budget or a Continuing Resolution. For one thing, a good part of this week on Capitol Hill will be taken up with activities surrounding Pope Francis’s visit, which starts with his arrival this afternoon and doesn’t end until he leaves Washington on Thursday afternoon. After the Pope arrives, Chinese President Xi Jingping arrives and, while he will not be addressing Congress like the Pope will, the fact of his visit to the U.S. will keep many of the top leaders on Capitol Hill busy for at least a good part of his visit. Factored into all of this, of course, are the rules that govern how quickly things move on Capitol Hill. If the House Leadership is behind a bill, they can get it to the floor relatively quickly if they have sufficient support on the Rules Committee, but it doesn’t work that way in the Senate. Absent unanimous consent, which seems unlikely given the statements of Senators such as Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, it could take as much as three days to get a bill through the upper chamber. Even if Congress works over the weekend, that still pushes us into early next week at the earliest and gives both chambers little time do anything if the initial effort to pass a funding bill fails. This is much the same problem that materialized two years ago. Thanks to the intransigence of a small group of people in the House and Senate, leadership was unable to get any bill at all passed before September 30th, and once the government shutdown went into effect both sides dug in their heels and prepared for a long battle. It’s entirely possible that this could happen again this time.
Politically, of course, a government shutdown would be as politically a stupid move for Republicans as the shutdown over the Affordable Care Act was two years ago. Back then, polling prior to the shutdown showed that the pubic opposed a shutdown and that it would blame the GOP if there was a shutdown and, when it was over, that’s exactly what happened. In the end, the only reason that the GOP didn’t suffer longer term damage from the 2013 shutdown like it did after the 1995-96 showdown between President Clinton and Newt Gingrich is because of the myriad of problems with the implementation of the PPACA that happened shortly after the shutdown. This time around, we also have polling that shows that most Americans would oppose a shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding and that the GOP would be likely to get the lion’s share of the blame if it happened. Nonetheless, the possibility still exists that Republicans will make the same mistake they did two years ago. Whether or not it actually happens is something we’ll have to watch unfold over the coming week.
“Politically, of course, a government shutdown would be as politically a stupid move for Republicans as the shutdown over the Affordable Care Act was two years ago. Back then, polling prior to the shutdown showed that the pubic opposed a shutdown and that it would blame the GOP if there was a shutdown and, when it was over, that’s exactly what happened.”
The voters blamed the GOP so much for the shutdown that they flipped the Senate to them, and increased the House majority to their largest in decades. So I am not sure that most Republicans in Congress felt blamed for the shutdown.
@Moosebreath: Yeah, I’m pretty sure they don’t see much downside. The elections are over a year away, gerrymandering has most of their seats safe, their base hates everyone a shutdown would hurt, it’s like Christmas in October for them.
There is downside, because this is not 2012, this is a presidential election year. Whatever Congress does, the candidates will have to take a stand, either supporting the idea of shutting down the government over family planning and women’s health, or not.
That no doubt seems like great fun for Ted Cruz and Ben Carson, but it won’t be as much fun for the ones who believe they have a chance at winning. This is handing Hillary an issue on a plate, sauced, garnished and ready to be gobbled up.
I predict a succession of CRs. Nobody outside the beltway (to borrow a phrase) has any understanding whatever of the damage a CR does, so it doesn’t look like shutting down the government. (I suspect that half of Congress thinks of it as “you get the same amount of money as last year”, overlooking the “…which you can only spend on exactly the same things as last year, whether you need another one of those or not” part of the rules.)
The’ve done it twice in 5 years. It’s hard to conclude that there are negative consequences for Republicans when it comes to shutting down the federal government.
And just for fun – they tried to leverage a cap on the federal debt limit and default against their demands to de-fund, rescind, or other wise de-authorize ACA. Many congressional Republicans opined that the effects of a possible federal default were greatly overstated, and a federal default would not be as consequential as people (intelligent and actually know what they’re talking about) are saying it would be.
The American people punished Republicans for this idiocy by turning over control of the House and Senate to them. So much for “wisdom of the people.”
Has there ever been a government shutdown the American people supported?
@al-Ameda: The really disgusting part was when the GOP pivoted and claimed that their candidates would favor “common sense solutions” and that they would be a solution to all that awful, terrible political gridlock and dysfunction in Washington, D.C. Stop those shutdowns! Vote out the incumbent!
And people bought it. They punished incumbent Democrats (but not incumbent Republicans).
it’s a mistake to consider those election results as an endorsement of shutdown tactics.
Yes, the GOP made gains in Congress in the last election, but obviously not enough to implement their agenda without compromise. They simply don’t have the votes, even after their gains.
In concept, about half the American people love a federal government shutdown – that is, until some benefit that they avail themselves of becomes temporarily unavailable.
@Tillman: Has there ever been a government shutdown the American people noticed?
I guess it would be naive for me to want the house members, who are only about 8 months into a 24 month term, could be more focused on what is good for their constituents instead of positioning themselves for the next electiom?
My Mom was a federal employee in 1995. She noticed when she went to work one day and all her “non-essential” colleagues had been furloughed.
If it’s true that no one will notice, then by all means….please proceed, governor. The problem is that every time there’s a shutdown, it actually reminds people of the vital and useful functions of the federal government and makes them wonder why their political leaders would play games with something so important.
This, of course, is not true for devoted partisans.
“Yes, the GOP made gains in Congress in the last election, but obviously not enough to implement their agenda without compromise.”
Only because they do not control the Presidency. If they win it next year, then yes, their agenda will be implemented without compromise. To the cheers of the so-called liberal media.
@James Pearce: So, your example of someone noticing a government shutdown is a government worker? You think you’d be able to come up with something stronger. I mean, the nightly news will have a bunch of stories about people travelling to national parks, but that’ll be it.
Well, they better pick up a few more seats in the Senate and the Presidency if they want to pass their compromise-free agenda.
But be not afraid.
The Republican nomination fight is a joke. 15 people sniffing the same butts, chasing the same car. Most of them are more interested in running for president than actually being president. Only half of them are serious, and they’re not THAT serious.
Yes, Pinky, not all government workers are just drawing paychecks for fleecing taxpayers. Most of them perform vital functions that aren’t, you know, optional.
How do you think mainstream conservatives would react if the current administration did something that laid off 2.7 million workers for a few weeks? Now, explain to me why the hit to the economy somehow doesn’t matter if those workers are federal employees…
THIS year isn’t, NEXT year is. There are 13 months between today and Election Day 2016. In America’s collective political memory that might as well be 13 years.
Ah, but he did — the 2013 shutdown! And conservatives were outraged. Of course, it was just a minor “slimdown” with no bad effects, but it was also totally the the fault of those terrible Democrats’ refusal to compromise. Wait, I might have the talking points mixed up for some reason…
In other words, it doesn’t affect you (that you can tell) so who gives a damn somebody’s not getting paid?
This? This is a great example of why the middle class in this country is disappearing. You should care when somebody’s getting screwed over for weeks because of petty politics the same way you should care when a factory closes, lays off thousands and moves overseas for cheap labor. Most government employees don’ t have second homes, boats or whatever blinged-out nonsense petty jealous jerks think they do – many live paycheck to paycheck, same as the rest of America. Whatever savings they have get blown away when they don’t get paid, severely disrupting the lives of them and their families. If you give a crap about workers, if you get upset when someone’s job gets outsourced, if you are outraged when salaries remain static but work hours skyrocket…… why aren’t upset when someone doesn’t get paid?
A house divided – a Republican informed the nation how that doesn’t work One of the greatest. Maybe you should heed it.
You know how to make this BS chicken shutdown crap stop and ensure it won’t be used as a weapon in cheap political shots? Pass a law that makes the following items kick in automatically once the deadline passes:
– All Congressional salaries are suspended for the rest of their term. That money will go towards the checks of the government employees to ensure they are paid on time. There will be no reimbursement if standoff goes past 2 days. All lifetime benefits are revoked if it goes past 5 days. Bye bye healthcare and pension!
– Social Security will be the source of all missing paycheck funds once it goes past 5 days or the designated pay period (since the congress critters can’t fund it all). Furthermore, all SS, SSI, Medicare/Medicid checks will be suspended for at least a month after resolution and be provided in the next month’s pay. So if they play games in late September, the earliest grandma gets her check is December. Once the seniors realize they won’t get getting what’s theirs, they will be up in arms the budget gets passed with a comfortable time padding so it NEVER happens again.
Right now, the only ones to visible suffer in the pocketbook are the employees of the gov and based off current conservative thinking, that’s a good thing. So you know what? Give ’em a taste of their own medicine. Spread the pain and make everyone realize that a shutdown is BAD thing for EVERYONE, not just people you hate. It wastes money, it impacts lives negatively and nobody wins except the weasels taking advantage of you for your vote. There were complaints last time how Obama was “mean” and deliberately inflicting “suffering” because he closed the parks and Average Joe was inconvenienced. Too bad, they ain’t seen nothing yet….
Actually, everyone’s gotten paid during the shutdowns.
Actually, they haven’t. They don’t get their regular paychecks during the shutdown.
Fortunately, Congress has authorized back pay, but that’s not a requirement.
The contractors who are locked out get nothing. They just lose however many days of pay the shutdown lasts.
@Pinky: As a contractor, I didn’t get paid. I had to use leave or Leave without Pay.
So the consequences of a shutdown aren’t that big of a deal to you. We get it. This doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences, nor does it mean that “shut it down” should be the new status quo when Congress can’t agree.
Me personally, I think the shutdown strategy is a desperate one. It indicates not only a weak position, but a weak negotiation. If I actually supported defunding Planned Parenthood, this is not the course I would support. You seem to at least be taking the risk-to-reward ratio into account, but rather than weighing how likely your risk will result in reward, you’re rationalizing the risk away.
Not a good idea.
@Scott: Yeah, that’s great, isn’t it? People get three weeks of vacation a year and have to burn it in October, when the kids are in school and they can’t go anywhere.
@Pinky: I notice, but that’s because I work in patent prosecution.
Translation: “Government employees aren’t real Americans.”
You can’t always guarantee that. It’s a terrible uncertainty to not know when or even if you will get paid again – that your financial future is a whim in the hands of idiots trying to score points.
I remember in the 90’s when several in my family were furloughed or not paid. I remember being too young to fully grasp why my mother was worried, why my aunt (a newly-minted professional in DC) was suddenly home all the time and crying but knowing it was because of something stupid and easily fixable. I remember it was a significant factor towards her having to sell her house and move in with us later on since she burned through her savings trying to keep her head above the water. That, and the mess that was GW a few years later, is what turned my previously all-conservative all-GOP family into raging liberals. My grandmother spat at Clinton then pulled the lever for Gore.
You don’t screw with people’s money. They tend to take that personally. Unless you can say with absolute certainty that everyone who should have gotten paid everything they were owed did and will in the future, then shutting down the government for anything less then a total emergency is an unconscionable act against American workers. You’d think a private company that screwed its employees around like this was scum so why does Congress get an ideological pass?
Piling on to the previous commenters, no — not everyone got paid.
In particular, the restaurant owners and tourist-focused small business proprietors in DC took a huge hit during the last shutdown. Many went out of business. Those are low-margin businesses at the best of times, that simply can’t absorb a couple of weeks of revenues well below the cost of opening for business.
Less vulnerable but still harmed were the contractors who work in federal offices. They got furloughed along with the offices they work in, but were never reimbursed the way the feds were. I’m not talking about Raytheon employees making missiles in Arizona, who can go on working because they have a contract; I’m talking about people who work as support staff on-site in federal facilities that were simply not open. Nobody really knows how many such workers there are, but it’s probably a 7-digit number.
@Mikey: I suppose there was a dumber way you could have read my comment, if you…huh, no, unless, nope, I guess there wasn’t.
@Pinky: Yeah, reading it exactly as it was written was pretty dumb. What semantic nit-picking discussion would you like to initiate?
@Mikey: I don’t want one, but we could have one. First we’d need Tillman to tell us if his original statement
meant (1) every single American person, (2) only good, decent American people, or (3) the average American in general.
@Mikey: @Pinky: Technically, if we really want to argue this inane line of thought until nothing makes sense anymore, we’d have to figure out what the hell an “American” is.
@Pinky: Nah, I don’t want one either.
Now, I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. You are generally respectful, often insightful, and smart enough to not have been sucked into Trump-ism. I was being overly snarky–I don’t really believe your answer indicates you consider several million government employees and contractors beneath consideration.
BUT…can you understand how easy it would be to draw that inference from it? How it could be read to mean “is that all you’ve got? One of those people?”
@Mikey: And it’s easy for me to draw the inference that the statement seemed batty to you because a conservative said it, but then when you considered a liberal had said it, you were able to give it the benefit of the doubt. As if you went snotty on me from the start because you were more interested in scoring points than having a discussion, but then when I pointed out the obvious, you folded without even admitting why.
Try some good faith, dude. There’s nothing in Mikey’s statement that would lead you to this conclusion.
@James Pearce: Good faith? He went from accusing me to buddying up with me the moment he realized that my statement was made by someone on the liberal whitelist. Old Doc Milgram would be proud of him.
@Pinky: And it was so obvious that that’s what he was going to do. He accused me of not believing that government workers are real Americans, and when I said that he was giving me an unfair reading, he said that he was reading it right. When I noted that my phrasing came from Tillman, he was suddenly saying that he was just being snarky and didn’t really mean what he said. It was transparent. He tried to score cheap points on the Other until he realized that he wasn’t taking shots at an online conservative’s (Pinky) phrasing, but at a human being’s (Tillman).
Tillman would be very upset to find himself on the liberal whitelist…
At any rate, Mike didn’t accuse you of anything. He took this statement:
to it’s logical conclusion: that the views of a government worker doesn’t matter. Or they matter less than other Americans (or something?)
At no point during this discussion have you acknowledged that there are downsides to a shutdown, especially for government workers. Instead you’ve been rather casual with the pain you think other people should endure for your cause, and hey, I get it….you think the cause is just. If
thousandsmillions of people miss their mortgage payment because they were furloughed, it’s a small price to pay for hobbling Planned Parenthood. Right?
It’s okay if you’re unconcerned about the consequences of the shutdown. Just don’t tell us that’s the “conservative” view.
@Pinky: Actually, what Tillman wrote had nothing whatsoever to do with what I wrote. I realized my reading of your comment was not as charitable as it could have been before I even saw his comment. My statement regarding giving you the benefit of the doubt was entirely due to my experience with your prior comments on OTB.
Pinky seems to be very concerned with nitpicking one comment but not at all concerned with addressing the many commenters who pantsed his ignorant statement that everyone got paid after the shutdown and admitting his mistake. One wonders why….
I can totally understand Pinky’s reluctance to go through all the mea culpa rituals we seem to expect from him now and again. It’s beneath his dignity, and ours.
And @Pinky, seriously, dude. I endorse Mikey’s assessment of you as “generally respectful, often insightful, and smart enough to not have been sucked into Trump-ism.” And I totally respect your willingness to wade into a den of lions here with no reward other than your own self-respect. Just know our back and forth (me and you, specifically, but everyone generally) is not meant to paint you into a corner but rather reach into your brain cells and, hopefully, change your mind.
From time to time.
Oh, I don’t want a mea culpa. I want, as you say above, some learning. I want some recognition that when, time after time, his command of the facts is proven shaky at best, that maybe that’s a sign that things are not as he imagines them to be. He says “everyone got paid” and multiple people tell him no, that’s not true. Does this new knowledge spur him to maybe reconsider his position? Or will he be back here a week or month or year from now discussing the shutdown, and again say that it’s not harmful?
My main point was that the average American voter isn’t affected by government shutdowns. It seemed weak to me to cite the workers themselves – after all, an organization that doesn’t significantly affect anyone’s lives but its employees is very hard to defend.
I was wrong about government contractors’ pay. I should have taken it into account. Anyone reading this thread can see that I raised a point, and it got refuted. Remember I’ve got like 30 people I’m supposed to fact-check, and 30 people fact-checking me. I don’t reply to every comment, just like I don’t expect or want an apology for every mistake that I catch.
First, thank you for admitting you were wrong. Many here when challenged on obviously incorrect data double down on the denial.
I do feel we should have more of the conservative side but lately they have been…. not on speaking terms with rationality and debate. It’s good to have an opposing voice, even if it’s only to help clarify and articulate your own points.
Serious question: Then why should anyone care about ANY worker that gets screwed over if the standard is being personally affected? American workers should just shut their mouths when their jobs are sent overseas in that case; after all, American shoppers get cheaper goods and the company in question makes money. If I’m not affected (or even may benefit), then it’s weak to cite the loss of jobs as a major negative since it only affects the workers. Boo-hoo and buh-byes then, bring on the profits!!!
Again, this is the kinda of apathy that is killing the middle class in this country. You can’t expect people to give a damn about Disney laying off their IT people if you feel that a DOD secretary’s paycheck is fair game for political chicken. It’s the same damn thing and cold-blooded to boot. The little guy taking it on the chin because the PTB are playing games. Government workers are not some mindless, segregated section you never see. They are also not confined to DC or metro areas – you see them when you go shopping, take your kids to games, drive around. They are working class people, not 1%. Conservatives like to act as if government employees aren’t people when really they just happen to hate their employer. It’s not the door-greeter’s fault I despite Walmart but I don’t wish his paycheck to be withheld for weeks if the CEO and Board of Directors get into a pissing match.
What is it fundies are always saying – Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner? Well, Hate the Government, Love the Employee. It’s not their fault Congress is dysfunctional.
Fair enough. On the other hand, there’s a question of time scales. It can be simultaneously true that shutting down the government for a week only significantly harms 10 million Americans, but that a month would significantly harm 50 million Americans and a year would be devastating to 99% of Americans.
And, of course, this begs the question of what the most appropriate measure of impact is — is it number of Americans affected, magnitude of average effect, maximum impact on at least N people, some kind of weighted average, … ? Hurricane Katrina only had a direct negative effect on about 3% of Americans. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a big deal.
This is what I realized you meant the other day and what prompted me to make the comment re: benefit of the doubt. (I was out on my evening run and thinking about our exchange…the fresh air and cool evening breezes generally moderate my thought processes.)
Of course, those directly affected would notice more than those not, but that doesn’t mean their experience is less relevant, does it? And there are extended effects, which, as DrDaveT points out, would impact more and more non-government-workers as the length of a shutdown increased.