I'm not sure whether this makes me laugh, cry or wince.
1. House Republicans refused all year to appoint conferees on the fiscal 2014 budget resolution.
2. Senate Democrats tried multiple times to pass a motion requesting a conference with the House on the 2014 budget resolution, but Senate Republicans each time prevented it from happening.
3. Late yesterday, the roles completely reversed. House Republicans requested to go to conference with the Senate on a 2014 continuing resolution that's needed in part because the two houses were unable to conference on the budget resolution, but Senate Democrats said they will not agree to the House request.
The popular and far more dramatic term used by the media and elected officials to describe what happens when new funding for an agency or department isn't enacted before the existing funding expires is "shutdown."
But the technical term used by federal budget geeks is "lapse in appropriations." That's what's happening now: Appropriations have lapsed.
Although almost everyone has focused on the lapses that occurred in 1995 and 1996, they actually occurred a number of times in the 1970s and 1980s.
You haven't heard much about them for several reasons:
1. Most of these lapses were short or happened over a weekend. They were barely noticed at the time and are not memorable now.
2. The lapses were not typically government-wide. Instead, they only happened to one or two agencies or departments.
This is being written several hours after the Senate summarily rejected yet another proposal from the House to tie funding for the government to changes in Obamacare.
The House then moved to do something it should have done days...or at least hours...ago: officially request a conference with the Senate on the continuing resolution so that formal negotiations over the fiscal 2014 continuing resolution can get underway. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) then adjourned the Senate until 9:30 am EDT and indicated that he expects that the request for a conference will be rejected until the House adopts a short-term CR that funds the government.
What all of the legislative maneuvering means is that the federal government shutdown many (or perhaps most) people thought would be avoided has started and will be in effect for a while.
It also means that the question has now changed from "Will there be a shutdown?" to "How long will it last?".
Here's what you need to know about the logistics of the shutdown.
I will admit right upfront that there is a little bit of wishful thinking in what you're about to read.
But it's only a little bit. And my realizing that it exists hasn't changed my analysis that a government shutdown could be the point that historians one day point to as the beginning of the end for the tea partiers in Congress.
I've come to this conclusion for two reasons
First, many people don't remember that the beginning of the end of Newt Gingrich's speakership began when Republicans were blamed for the two shutdowns in 1995 and 1996.
The comparison is anything but perfect. But given that Gingrich and congressional Republicans were far more popular in the mid-1990s than the tea party is today, and in light of the fact that the tea party and not House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is most likely to bear the blame if a shutdown occurs, there's a good reason to think that at least some of the TP's supporters will find themselves cursing the tea party's name very soon, especially when the shutdown begins to affect them negatively.
It was virtually inevitable that House Republicans would amend the Senate-passed continuing resolution with changes the Senate has already said it won't accept.
To understand why, I need to again refer back to something I posted more than two years ago, right after I was the first speaker at the first meeting of the House tea party caucus. (You can read all the details here.)
I was talking informally with a number of the members of Congress who had been there after the meeting ended. There was unanimous agreement among those members that the biggest thing the House GOP had done wrong during the 1995 and 1995-96 shutdowns was that it had given in to Bill Clinton too early. The GOP would have gotten a much better deal, they told me, if it had pushed harder and been willing to keep the government closed longer.