Stan Collender's blog
The Clinton administration didn't play as much hardball as it could have during the 1995 and 1996 federal shutdowns because it decided that the air traffic control system was a critical government activity.
Doing the opposite -- and it definitely was a discretionary presidential decision rather than a legislated mandate -- likely would have ended the shutdowns much faster because of the outcry when planes were grounded and everything from Fed Ex to business trips to honeymoons were affected. The economic damage and anger would have been immediate and intense.
The Obama White House appears to be going in a very different direction with the sequester. As this story by Matthew Wald in today's New York Times shows, not only will the air traffic control system be included if the sequester occurs, the administration clearly is not reluctant in the slightest about making it clear that flights will be canceled or seriously delayed...or both if the sequester happens.
A quick post about the new Bowles-Simpson plan that was announced yesterday because that's all it deserves: It's a total nonstarter.
(If you haven't heard about it, here's Jeanne Sahadi's story from CNMoney.)
Bowles and Simpson didn't have enough support to get their original plan through their own commission in 2010, so why do they or anyone else think their new plan is relevant now that the commission has been disbanded? Bowles and Simpson have no standing and no influence.
The new plan should be seen for what it really is: A desperate plea for attention by two men who have hurt rather than helped their reputations by releasing it. It's the federal budget equivalent of Brett Favre continuing to play for other teams long after he should have just retired.
I first posted a month ago about how House Republicans are increasingly acting as if there's no way they won't be in the majority at least through the end of this decade. Back in January I said that this was one of the primary reasons why the threat of a sequester and government shutdown had to be taken more seriously than most analysts were doing.
Now there's more evidence that the House GOP thinks its majority will continue to exist for quite a while.
At least that's how I read this story from The Hill by Russell Berman that explains how the House is letting the Senate go first so that Democrats can't avoid tough votes on a variety of issues as they have done over the previous two years when it refused to take up House-passed legislation.
One of my most enduring memories from the first government shutdown in 1995 was the report about it on the network evening news the first day. While those of us inside the beltway were focused on the extraordinary political spectacle, the report showed a video of cars, vans, and campers not being allowed to get into a national park -- I think it was Yosemite -- because, like other federal offices not deemed essential, the park was closed.
As I remember, the video showed two things.
First, the lines were long because, even though the shutdown was widely reported, many people didn't realize that national parks would be affected. Many of those shown said that they didn't know the national parks were federal facilities.
Second, to put it mildly, the people shown on camera were irate. The government shutdown that was just an abstraction to most people up to that point immediately became very real and personal.
I wanted to post this right after the House GOP retreat last month, but decided to wait because I might have been overreacting.
Now, however, the proof is indisputable: Even though they are in the majority in the House and make a great deal of noise about being part of the policy-making process, Republicans have clearly now abdicated all responsibility when it comes to the federal budget and simply decided it's someone else's job.
Consider the following:
1. After failing miserably on the fiscal cliff (remember the abortive Plan B?), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced that it was now up to the Senate to deal with the situation.
2. Boehner also announced that he will no longer negotiate directly with the president on anything having to do with the budget. He reiterated that again this week when he said at a press conference that he now was going to let the Senate go first because, whenever he negotiated directly with this president it was his "rear end that got burnt.”