Parties Dig In as Government Shutdown ApproachesMarch 30, 2011 - by Donny Shaw
In the midst of the conflict in Libya, the disaster in Japan, and the economic crisis at home that’s still very much hitting the poor and middle class, a government shutdown could have dour consequences for the U.S. economy. Consumer confidence is already starting to dip and a shutdown could be just the thing to throw consumers and financial markets into a panic that could push us back into another recession. Yet, with just a handful of legislative days left for Congress to pass a budget and prevent a shutdown, Senate Democrats and House Republicans are moving further apart from a deal. Instead of negotiating, they’re preparing for the politics of the shutdown, each trying to pin the pain it would cause on the other party.
On Monday, Senate Democrats offered to agree to the full amount of spending cuts that the House Republican leadership had originally proposed — about $31 billion below 2010 levels. But House Speaker Rep. John Boehner [R, OH-8], pushed further to the right by Tea Partiers and freshman in his caucus, has rejected the offer. Meanwhile, House Republicans are basically ruling out another stopgap to prevent a shutdown if a long-term deal can’t be struck by April 8. Minority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor [R, VA-7] yesterday called a stopgap without a long-term deal “unacceptable” and Republican freshman are planning to protest on the Senate steps until a long-term deal is reached.
Meanwhile the policy riders that were added to the long-term funding bill in the House — stuff like defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and blocking the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases — are still a huge problem. Senate Democrats are saying that including any of the Republicans’ social policy items in the budget bill would be a deal breaker. House Republican freshman say they won’t accept a bill that does not include them. Now that they’ve won votes based on the false premise that subsidizing Planned Parenthood provides taxpayer dollars for elective abortion services, they’re not willing to restore the funds.
House Republicans have turned to messaging. Boehner is calling on the Senate to “do its job” and pass its own budget bill, suggesting that somehow having a Democratic proposal through the chamber will change the negotiating landscape with GOP freshmen. It wouldn’t, of course.
The Republicans are planning to hold a vote Friday on a symbolic bill called the “Prevention of a Government Shutdown Act.” As the National Journal reports, “Passage will do nothing to avoid a government shutdown since no deal has been reached with Democrats in the Senate and the White House. But it will give the House GOP the opportunity to claim that they’ve tried to prod the Senate toward a deal on spending cuts.” The bill would deem the House Republicans’ budget bill, including all of its policy riders, law if the Senate doesn’t pass it’s own bill by next Wednesday, even though the Senate has already held a vote on the House budget and rejected it.