The Lowdown on the Shutdown

By Staff

With the U.S. about to be unable to pay its bills on Thursday, and two weeks into the government shutdown, Senate leaders were said to be close to a deal. The agreement would reopen the government until Jan. 15, raise the debt ceiling until Feb. 7 and kick off large bicameral budget negotiations. If sequestration continues into 2014 – and the deal would fund the government until the next sequester cuts are scheduled to take effect, ensuring a battle over whether the cuts will be left in place next year – agencies would have more say over where and how to dole them out. “Everyone just needs to be patient,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said. ‘Perhaps tomorrow will be a bright day.” But if an agreement doesn’t come together by the end of the day Tuesday, the United States is at serious risk of defaulting on its debt.

According to POLITICO, a market spiral could inject some urgency into the House Republican Conference. Boehner (R-Ohio) could give an impassioned “We’ve had enough” talk in Tuesday’s closed-door meeting and explain that this deal will give Republicans a chance to negotiate over the next government funding bill and debt ceiling — something President Barack Obama said he would never do. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) could make the case that winning a budget conference is a victory — and he will fight for Obamacare changes, entitlement reform and tax changes in that context.

But the other view, expressed anonymously by senior aides and lawmakers, is that this deal is not enough. After a 14-day shutdown that has left America on the brink of a debt default, the Republicans who provoked this fight will be left with nothing but declining poll numbers. These aides and lawmakers are watching the bumpy Obamacare rollout and know that the pack of 30 or so lawmakers who have stymied Boehner at every turn will push for more significant health care changes.

Changing this bill comes with massive risk for Boehner. For several weeks, Boehner has weathered calls to lift the debt ceiling and fund the government. But facing this deadline, Boehner would have a tougher time resisting a bipartisan agreement with the nation teetering on economic disaster.
Some in leadership believe there is some win for Republicans in this proposal. Ryan gets his budget conference and Republicans get the government reopened and the debt ceiling lifted for a short period of time, instead of the yearlong increase Democrats were seeking. Republicans also get to the government funding and debt ceiling fight separate, as conservatives wanted.

They have another “bite at the apple,” as Boehner would say, to enact budgetary reforms. Ryan, whom many see as the most trusted voice in the party, would get a chance to hash out a budget deal with Democrats and Obama — something he and Boehner have yearned for.

Of course, there’s also a lot of risk for Republicans here. Washington would face another budget crisis Jan. 15, when government funding runs out and the next round of sequestration is slated to hit. The debt ceiling will need to be lifted again sometime from February to April — depending on how much revenue the government collects — which places the fight just months before the 2014 midterm elections. Plus, appropriators will again be peeved because the deal’s duration cuts into their ability to pass an omnibus spending bill.
But Boehner is well aware of the negotiations and how they are progressing. His senior aides have been in touch with McConnell’s, and the two men met late Monday afternoon. Boehner’s staff has also been in touch with the White House.