In order to avert a government shutdown next month, congressional Republicans need to work out a deal with President Obama on a variety of complex issues. It is no wonder, then, that the odds of a shutdown have just shot way up.
At a press conference Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill, House Speaker John Boehner, surrounded by Republican leaders, announced that the body would move forward on a much-debated proposal to fund the government at existing levels, minus the chunk of money that would provide revenue to Obamacare. It was a significant announcement in large part because it suggests a winner in the months-long struggle between the vocal conservative base and the pragmatic leadership. That winner? The base — which as we noted earlier, has become incensed at a lack of action on the issue.
On Friday, according to the Huffington Post's Jennifer Bendery, the House will vote on (and almost certainly pass) a continuing resolution (or CR) that "locks sequester savings in and defunds Obamacare," in Boehner's words. Per Fox News' Chad Pergram, it will fund the government into December. Then, as soon as next week, the House will vote on a bill that will link an increase to the debt ceiling to a complete defunding of the president's signature health care plan. As outlined by conservative legislators including Sens. Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, the intent is to force the Senate to choose between accepting that bill or not funding the government.
Obama and Democratic leaders have staunchly rejected the idea that this is a serious choice — particularly the harsher link between the debt ceiling increase and a full defunding. (Standard reminder: A debt ceiling increase authorizes the government to borrow money to pay debts already incurred; it doesn't increase the amount spent.) So, as Politico reported on Wednesday morning, the likelihood of a shutdown after the current spending bill expires on October 1 just went up.
Chris Krueger, D.C.-based analyst for Guggenheim Partner: “Government Shutdown Odds Increase to 40% … We are raising our odds of a government shutdown in 14 days to 40% from a 1 in 3 probability. We are basing the 60% odds that there will not be a government shutdown on blind faith because there is little to no evidence to suggest that the House, Senate, and White House can agree to a stopgap measure in time.”
Sensing what was coming, the White House on Tuesday told federal agencies to prepare for funding (appropriations) to be turned off, as The Hill reports. "There is enough time for Congress to prevent a lapse in appropriations, and the Administration is willing to work with Congress to enact a short-term continuing resolution to fund critical Government operations and allow Congress the time to complete the full year 2014 appropriations," a memo from the White House reads. "However, prudent management requires that agencies be prepared for the possibility of a lapse."
At The Washington Post, Ezra Klein explains why a shutdown is more likely now than it was in 2011, when Republicans issued a similar threat when faced with the need to raise the debt ceiling. (Emphasis in original.)
1) In 2011, the White House knew whom to deal with. Back then, House Speaker John Boehner actually did seem reasonably in sync with his party on these issues, and so the White House was able to negotiate with Republican leadership on a deal...
2) In 2011, the White House was willing to deal. The White House believed, in its gut, that Republicans had been given a mandate in the 2010 elections to extract exactly the kind of concessions they were demanding. … This year, it's the White House that won the last election, and so they see no popular legitimacy behind Republican demands.
There's some suggestion that what Boehner and Republican leaders are doing in giving the base what it wants is merely to demonstrate that such a move isn't politically viable. Move the far-right proposal, watch it fail, and then return to a negotiated settlement.
Passing a CR that defunds Obamacare lets GOP ldrs show the strategy's DOA in the Senate, and begin negotiating in earnest. That's the game.— Mike O'Brien (@mpoindc) September 18, 2013
The problem with that strategy, though, is that it relies upon a shift in sentiment from the group of people that have not, to this point, been convinced that the strategy will fail. By kicking an untenable bill to the Senate, it forces Lee and Cruz to step up to an impossible task. And then the House, rather than simply saying, "well, we tried," will be pushed from the right to actually let the government shut down. That would make the hard conservative base happy — but with elections 14 months away, it will likely have the opposite effect on the huge majority that is the rest of the voting population.