Nuclear Option Increases Chances Of Another Shutdown, Sequestration
By changing it's rules yesterday to prevent filibusters on executive branch and judicial nominees (other than the Supreme Court) -- the so-called nuclear option -- the Senate further complicated a federal budget debate that was already overly complicated and had little chance of success.
Although it's still less likely than likely, the prospects for a government shutdown in January increased significantly. Based on yesterday's action, I have increased the possibility that funding for the federal government will not be adopted by the time the current continuing resolution expires to 40 percent.
And the likelihood for sequestration to occur as scheduled in mid-January also jumped significantly.
1. In general terms, the federal budget debate in recent years has always been more emotional than rational and far more political than substantive. The emotions and politics were significantly ramped up yesterday.
2. Although the rules change was not about either the budget or the House, both almost immediately were affected by what was done in the Senate. The first big legislation-related deadline following the adoption of the nuclear option will be December 13, the date by which the budget conferees are supposed to develop an agreement.
The second big date will be January 15, when the current continuing resolution will expire.
The third will be January 18, when the sequester is scheduled to occur unless Congress and the White House agree to an alternative.
In other words, the most immediate legislative impact of the nuclear option, and the first chance for retribution by the GOP, will be on the budget.
3. It's hard to imagine how the House and Senate Republican members of the budget conference committee will feel any more inclined to compromise with Democrats on tax and spending issues now that the nuclear option has been adopted. In other words, a negotiation that was already in serious trouble, has now been further complicated.
4. I have talked for several years about how the tea party sees working with Democrats (and some non tea party Republicans) as collaborating with the enemy. It thinks of compromise in religious terms...as "a sin."
The Senate's action yesterday didn't just reconfirm that to the tea partiers, it almost certainly exacerbated it. If they didn't before, the tea party certainly now thinks of the Democrats either as a tool of the devil or the devil incarnate.
5. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is leading the budget conference committee for the GOP, had been hoping to demonstrate his leadership by putting together the deal that everyone lese thought impossible. The assumption by the House leadership was that Ryan could bring the previously recalcitrant tea partiers along because of the personal esteem they have for him.
But given what happened yesterday, that esteem will be put in serious jeopardy if Ryan makes a deal with the Senate Democratic devils. Indeed, Ryan's prospects as a GOP presidential nominee or candidate for House speaker or Ways and Means Committee chairman -- all of which he supposedly is interested in -- will be seriously damaged if he makes a deal with Satan that is considered less than total capitulation. Given how unlikely that is to happen, Ryan's ability to negotiate was seriously damaged and that truly hurts the prospects for any kind of agreement, including one that stops the sequester.