Government Shutdown Looms…

Republicans...unified?

Two days remain before (the horror!) the federal government shuts down.

Speaker Boehner is playing hardball, though.  He told President Obama today that Republicans would pass another stop gap measure on Thursday.  The catch?  The measure would have $12 billion in cuts, and would also assure Defense Department funding for the rest of the year.  GOP aides have coined the stopgap measure a “troop-funding bill” – attempting to make it difficult for lawmakers in either party to oppose.

“Republicans have no interest in shutting down the government,” an exasperated Boehner declared at the conclusion of his press conference. “Shutting down the government I think is irresponsible and I think it will end up costing the American taxpayers more money than we’re already spending.”

The ‘Tea Party bloc’, as I have begun to call them, seem pleased with Boehner’s most current stance on budget talks.  Boehner has now targeted $40 Billion as the achievable cuts he wants in any compromise bill for the complete 2011 budget.  It appears that the Republicans now have a unified front in their position.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said GOP leaders would not need Democrats to pass the new CR, reflecting efforts by top Republicans to pressure their members to fall into line. Fifty-four Republicans voted against the previous CR, although a number of those lawmakers now say they will vote for this latest funding bill.  Rep. Mike Pence, who has also been vocally opposed to any more short-term funding bills and the leader of the bloc who voted against the previous CR, has also reversed his position.

This puts Senate Democrats in a bind.  Will they stand up for their principles, and basically cause a shutdown in the hopes that the American public is too ignorant of the facts to blame them?  Or will they be forced to pass the bill, and basically in turn pass many of the cuts the Republicans wanted in the first place, simply through what amounts to a back door route?

President Obama, of course, does not want any stopgap measures.  “It makes it tough to win the future when you haven’t passed the budget from last year,” Obama told an audience in Pennsylvania.  Funny, because the entire reason for this mess is the incompetence of Democrats, specifically Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who failed to pass a budget last year; the first time that has  happened since 1974.

Obama is playing a game of chicken.   It seems that the White House feels that they are going to win the public relations battle, and that the public will automatically blame Republicans, just as they did back in 1995.  However, that is far from assured.  An NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll shows that although 37% would blame Republicans, 20% would blame Obama and 20% would blame Congressional Democrats.  17% of the public would blame both sides equally.  The Republican/Democrat breakdown, then, would be 37%/40%…a wash.   And honest White House staffers will admit concern over a shutdown, and who ultimately will pay the political price if it occurs.

So I guess it is time to roll the dice, huh?