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All eyes will be on the Senate today as it votes mid-afternoon on whether to proceed to a vote on the continuing resolution. Unless something unexpected happens and that vote fails, the Senate is widely expected to strip out the GOP-preferred provision that would prevent federal agencies from spending any money to implement Obamacare and then send a clean bill back to the House.
It's what happens in the House that will determine whether there's a government shutdown next Tuesday.
At this very late point in the debate, it's hard to discern even a hint of a strategy among House Republicans about what to do and how to get it done. The GOP plan that seemed to be emerging to vote this week on a debt ceiling extension that included tea party legislative priorities and punt on the CR was abandoned yesterday when the leadership realized it didn't have the votes from its own caucus to pass that bill.
That leaves the CR as the vehicle of choice for the tea party wing of the House GOP.
So the questions for this weekend all have to do with House Republicans. Will they:
A government shutdown and #cliffgate may still not occur.
But those who are discounting the chances of it happening have far more confidence in the willingness of the tea party wing of the House GOP to act rationally at the last minute as its dreams of being seen as uncompromising and defiant are close to being realized than I do.
Here's why will it be up to the tea party wing and not, as many others are saying, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to decide whether a shutdown occurs.
Now that the House has passed a continuing resolution that the Senate won't accept because it defunds Obamacare, the budget process choreography for the coming week will be as follows:
This is being written less than 10 full days before the start of the new fiscal year. Four of these days occur over a weekend.
As I said in my previous post, none of the individual appropriations for fiscal 2014 have yet been enacted and none have any chance of being enacted.
The House earlier today passed a continuing resolution that, in theory would keep the government funded until December 15 and, therefore, avoid a shutdown. But the bill includes a poison pill -- defunding Obamacare -- that Senate Democrats and the White House say they absolutely won't accept in any form.
As a result, barely a week before the fiscal year begins, the process for avoiding a government shutdown has barely moved from the situation that existed a week, a month, and six months ago. Because of that, a shutdown has to be considered more likely now than it was when this week started.
There are many reasons why the budget fight that will take pace over the next few weeks and months will be more difficult than any of the close-to-debacles that have occurred in recent years.
The reasons include John Boehner (R-OH), who was already the weakest and least effective House speaker in modern times, being even weaker; a president with what at best is tepid support from his own party in Congress; an increasingly frustrated tea party wing of the GOP that no longer sees procedural compromises as satisfying; increasingly defiant House Democrats, who see less and less value in supplying votes to enact must-pass legislation when the Republican majority is unable to do it; and a seemingly hopeless split in the House GOP that makes further spending reductions, standing pat at current levels or spending increases impossible.
Add to this "crisis fatigue." So many actual or man-made economic and financial disasters have occurred in recent years that the kinds of things that used to scare Congress and the White House into compromising -- like possible federal defaults and government shutdowns -- no longer motivate them to act.
It wasn't too long yesterday after House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced his support for the president's position on Syria that the blogosphere erupted with speculation that the White House had cut a deal. Boehner, it was said, had quickly signed on to U.S. military action against Syria in exchange for the White House moving closer to the GOP position on the upcoming battles on the continuing resolution, the debt ceiling and sequestration, that is, on #cliffgate.
The two issues are so separate, the White House and congressional Republicans are so far apart on everything having to do with the budget, Boehner's and Obama's ability to deliver their respective party's votes on spending and revenues so doubtful and Boehner's and the president's history of negotiating so poor that it's virtually impossible to imagine how the administration and the speaker could possibly have come to any agreement on Syria and #cliffgate so quickly.
There will be only 9 legislative days before fiscal 2014 starts on October 1. Approximately 15 calendar (but no more than 10 legislative) days later, the Treasury says the government will not have the cash it needs to pay all its bills. At that point either the federal debt ceiling will have to be raised so the government may borrow more or a technical or actual default will occur.
Yes...The headline on this post is inflammatory and intended to attract eyeballs, visitors and clicks.
It's also totally accurate.
I'm posting this is because of this editorial in today's The New York Times that is both absolutely correct and incredibly naive when it comes to federal spending on natural disasters.
Here's the money quote:
Two weeks or so ago I posted that this fall's (and winter's) budget debate could best be described as "budget bedlam."
I was wrong.
Since that post the situation has taken a turn for the worse and "bedlam," which sounds more like a Marx Bothers, Mack Sennett, or Three Stooges movie than a political event, may no longer be appropriate.
I'm using a new phrase -- Fiscal Fiasco -- to describe what could be ahead.
What's changed? House and Senate Republicans are now threatening to use the debt ceiling increase that will be needed by the middle of November rather than the continuing resolution that will be needed by October 1 to make yet another stand on Obamacare.
This is more than just a timing shift for the fight: It actually significantly changes the probability that something economically disastrous could result.
I've referred back to this post so many times since it first went up more than two years ago that I almost have to apologize for doing it again.
Almost, but not really, and especially not this time.
For those who are new to CG&G (or who have blocked out any memory of that post for your own reasons), in early 2011 I was the first speaker at the first meeting of the House tea party caucus.
I was invited by Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) to speak about the coming debt ceiling fight because of a column I had written (and she misread) for Roll Call. I spoke first but was asked to stay for the rest of the meeting when the tea party chairs from Pennsylvania, Florida and Virginia told (actually...screamed at would be a better description) the 20 or so representatives who were there what they wanted from them in that session of Congress.
Number one on their wish list was -- and this is an exact quote -- "defund Obamacare."