This may all be over by the time the sun comes up today, but for now we have another shutdown.
The Senate passed a sweeping bipartisan spending bill Friday morning, but not before the federal government shut down when Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) delayed the vote past midnight to complain about the budget deficit. It was the second government shutdown in less than three weeks.
The spending legislation passed 71-28, with wide bipartisan support. The bill would reopen the government while showering hundreds of billions of dollars on defense and domestic priorities, speeding disaster aid to hurricane-hit regions, and lifting the federal borrowing limit for a year. But first it must pass the House, where opposition from the left and the right made the outcome uncertain.
House votes were expected later Friday morning.
The shutdown was so unanticipated that the Office of Management and Budget didn’t tell federal agencies to prepare for it until Thursday evening. But depending on House action the closure could end up being brief and having little impact on federal workers and the public.
Or not. You never know with these flakes. So we wait and wonder why they get paid as much as they do to do as little as possible.
So we have a bill to end the shutdown. It isn’t perfect; the hard-cores on both sides hate it and there are cries of “Sellout!” and “Sucker!” from the likes of the Tea Party to Code Pink. That usually means it’s a deal made to end an immediate impasse with promises of goodies for both sides later, neither of whom trust the other to keep their word.
That’s the main question: Do you trust them to keep their word?
If this bill passes, CHIP will be financed for the next six years, and that’s a very good thing. The military will get its money, and a lot of people will be mollified by that, I guess. (Also, the campaign talking point that the Democrats are stealing money from Our Troops to give it to the various branches of MS-13 is somewhat blunted. Golf clap. They’re going to use it anyway.) And, depending on your relative innate optimism, Schumer and the Democrats didn’t give up much at all but, rather, decided to live to fight in February on funding the government, and to fight on DACA in March. But, for me, McConnell is a rare combination of being ruthless and being truthless, and the House has lost its mind, and the president* has disappeared. And, these days, my innate optimism is not exactly brimming.
What gives me pause is what I saw and heard over the weekend and on Monday. A political party that wants to eliminate entire Cabinet departments defended a president* whose administration* has refused to staff vital positions all over the government by weeping crocodile tears over the plight of furloughed federal employees. And Tailgunner Ted Cruz, cornered in the basement of some Senate office building, insisting that he always has opposed government shutdowns. (I thought Kasie Hunt of MSNBC was going to be orbiting Mars by the time that little episode ended.) The truth is not in these people because, given the nature of their political base, and given the essential political immorality of their donor class, it hasn’t had to be for a very long time.
So, I’m not going to scream, “Sellout!” nor sing “Kumbaya.” I am just going to sum up the state of play in three questions.
Do you trust a promise from Mitch McConnell?
Do you think Paul Ryan can be trusted to control his caucus sufficiently to pass a bill based on a promise from Mitch McConnell?
Do you think the president* can be trusted to sign a bill based on a promise from Mitch McConnell?
Your mileage may certainly vary.
If it gets to February 8 and somehow Mitch McConnell backs out of the deal because he didn’t like the way Elizabeth Warren looked at him in the hallway, or Paul Ryan can’t or doesn’t try to control his caucus, or Trump hears something on Fox and Friends that calls into question the spheroid shape of the planet and he tweets his madness, the government will shut down yet again and this time there’s no way they can plausibly blame it on the Democrats. (They still will; I said “plausibly,” and that’s an adjective that gets no respect in Washington.) Then we start this whole thing over again, but it will squarely be on the DACA situation with no extraneous distractions such as military pay or CHIP.
No, I don’t trust Mitch McConnell any further than I can fly to the moon on gossamer wings. But if this blows up, the turds will be in his punch bowl and the fun part will be seeing how he explains how he can’t trust himself.
Living as we do, on what is—as hard as it may be to believe—the first anniversary of Donald Trump in power, we find ourselves caught in a quarrel between Trump optimists and Trump pessimists, and one proof of how right the Trump pessimists have been is that the kind of thing that the Trump optimists are now saying ought to make you optimistic. Basically, their argument amounts to the claim that the stock market remains up, the government isn’t suspended, and the President’s critics aren’t in internment camps. In the pages of The Economist, as in the columns of the Times, one frequently reads some form of this not-very-calming reassurance: Trump may be an enemy of republican government, and a friend to tyrants, while alienating our oldest friends in fellow-democracies, but while he may want to be a tyrant, he isn’t very good at being one. This is the Ralph Kramden account of Trumpism: he blusters and threatens and shakes and rages, but Alice, like the American people, just stands there and shrugs him off sardonically.
Those in the Trump-pessimist camp are inclined to point out not only that the final score is not in yet but that the game has only just started. In real life, as opposed to fifties sitcoms, the Ralph Kramdens tend to act on their instincts. Trump’s Justice Department has already reopened an investigation of his political opponent, after he loudly demanded it—itself a chilling abuse of power. And if, as seems probable, Trump tries to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel on the Russia investigation, we will be in the midst of a crisis of extreme dimensions.
But, even in the absence of overt criminality, Trump pessimists may also point to how degraded our discourse has already become—how the processes variously called “normalization” or “acceptance” or just “silent stunned disbelief” go on. We know that Trump fired James Comey, the F.B.I. director, because he wanted him to stop investigating contacts between members of Trump’s campaign and Russia—and Trump announced this fact in public, despite having had subordinates come up with more plausible-sounding rationales for him to cling to. And surely no one can doubt that, had Hillary Clinton become President and, say, a meeting had then been discovered to have taken place between members of her campaign and a mysterious visitor from an autocratic foreign power offering information designed to subvert democracy, with an accompanying e-mail from Chelsea Clinton saying “Love it!,” we would now be in the midst of Clinton’s impeachment hearings, with the supposedly liberal press defending her faintly, if at all.
Meanwhile, the insults to democratic practice continue. In any previous Administration, reports that the resident of the White House had paid off a porn star to be silent about an alleged affair would be a defining—and, probably, Presidency-ending—scandal. With Trump, Stormy Daniels hardly registers at all as a figure, so dense and thick on the ground are the outrages and the indignities, so already bizarre is the cast of characters. (It’s as if we have been watching some newly discovered season of “The Sopranos,” what with the Mooch and Sloppy Steve. Who now can even quite recall poor Sean Spicer?)
Worse still, in a sense, is the degradation of memory that this circus enforces. Not long ago, Bret Stephens, who left the Wall Street Journal for the Times and has been an admirable mainstay of the anti-Trumpist movement among conservatives, wrote a touching piece about his father, and the decency of the values that he exemplified, especially when it came to the treatment of women, in the workplace and outside it. “Our culture could sorely use a common set of ideas about male decorum and restraint in the 21st century, along with role models for those ideas,” Stephens wrote. “Who, in the age of Trump, is teaching boys why not to grope—even when they can, even when ‘you can do anything’?” But nowhere did Stephens acknowledge that, less than a year ago, America did have, in President Barack Obama, a near-perfect model of male decorum and restraint, who in his own behavior and words taught boys how to be men who honored and respected women.
The point is not that what Obama did was necessarily always admirable, but that amnesia about even the very recent past has become essential to the most decent conservative politics; only by making the national emergency general and cross-party can it be fully shared rather than, as it should be, localized to the crisis of one party and its ideology. In plain English, it becomes necessary to spread the smell around so that everyone gets some of the stink on them. This is why we have to read so much undue hand-wringing about our national crisis in civic values and family piety rather than recognize the abandonment of republican values that began when the mainstays of the conservative party decided to embrace Trump instead of—as their French equivalents had done, when confronted with the same choice between an authoritarian nationalist and a moderate centrist —reject him. It is always appealing rhetorically to insist that all of us are at fault. We’re not. The attempts to pretend that the Trump era is part of some national, or even planetary, crisis, stretching out from one end of the political spectrum to the other, obscures the more potent reality. Had Mitt Romney and the Bushes not merely protested, or grumbled in private, about Trump but openly endorsed Hillary Clinton as the necessary alternative to the unacceptable, we might be living in a different country. For that matter, if, during the past year, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell had summoned patriotism in the face of multiple threats to the norms of democratic conduct, then we might not be in this mess. They didn’t, and we are.
Needless to say, the degradation of public discourse, the acceleration of grotesque lying, the legitimization of hatred and name-calling, are hard to imagine vanishing like the winter snows that Trump thinks climate change is supposed to prevent. The belief that somehow all these things will somehow just go away in a few years’ time does seem not merely unduly optimistic but crazily so. In any case, the trouble isn’t just what the Trumpists may yet do; it is what they are doing now. American history has already been altered by their actions—institutions emptied out, historical continuities destroyed, traditions of decency savaged—in ways that will not be easy to rehabilitate.
And yet there are grounds for optimism. Institutions may crumble, but more might yet be saved. Restoration may be no more than two good elections and a few steady leaders away, as long as the foundational institutions of democracy—really, no more than fair voting and counting, but no less than those, either—remain in place. Political results are far more often contingent than overdetermined, much more to do with accident and personality than with irresistible tides of history. This is what makes them controllable. After all, not long ago a rational woman won the popular vote for President, rather easily, and only a bad electoral system prevented her from taking office. Part of the power of tyrants and would-be tyrants is to paralyze our self-confidence. The famous underground societies of the Eastern European countries, built under Soviet tyranny, were exercises not in heroism but in normalcy: we like this music, this food, these books, and no one can tell us what to think about them. What has happened is worse than we want to pretend. But it happened for highly specific and contingent causes, and the means of remedying them have not yet passed.
Meanwhile, our primary obligation may be simply not to blind ourselves to the facts, or to compromise our values in a desperate desire to embrace our fellow-citizens. Any anti-Trumpist movement must consist of the broadest imaginable coalition, but it cannot pretend that what we are having is a normal national debate. The reason people object, for instance, to the Times running a full page of Trump-defending letters is not that they want to cut off or stifle that debate; it is because the implication that Trumpism is a controversial but acceptable expression of American values within that debate is in itself a betrayal of those values. Liberal democracy is good. Authoritarian nationalism is bad. That’s the premise of the country. It’s the principle that a lot of people died for. Americans never need to apologize for the continuing absolutism of their belief in it.
More than 100,000 protesters showed up on a warm, sunny day in New York to celebrate the anniversary of the Women’s March protests that followed Donald Trump’s inauguration as president last year. But in contrast with last year’s events, this year’s gathering was optimistic, almost celebratory. The pink pussy cat hats were out; so were the signs (“A Women’s Place Is in the Revolution,” “Grab ‘Em By the Putin,” “Shed Walls, Don’t Build Them”). Couples danced to a brassy tunes floating from somewhere down the block.
Last year, more than 400,000 protesters clogged Fifth Avenue and descended upon Trump Tower, according to the Mayor’s Office. That event was just one of the hundreds that comprised one of the largest single days of protest in U.S. history, with more than 3 million people estimated to have participated, according to crowd-size experts. No matter that the Women’s March on Washington, the original event, was borne from a single Facebook post and organized entirely ad-hoc. People then were coming together for one reason: to protest the election of Donald Trump. This year, more than 300 towns and cities across the U.S. have registered for events.
The president, for his part, needled the protesters with a tweet.
“Beautiful weather all over our great country, a perfect day for all Women to March,” President Trump tweeted. “Get out there now to celebrate the historic milestones and unprecedented economic success and wealth creation that has taken place over the last 12 months. Lowest female unemployment in 18 years!”
But for the protesters, these Women’s Marches aren’t just about opposing the president; for many, they’re about joining in a moment of cultural upheaval around issues of sexual abuse. When I spoke with Winnie Whitted, who attended the march in Austin, Texas, last year, she put it like this: “I think that #MeToo is the reason why women are coming together this year. This is now really a women’s march.”
The #MeToo movement, which was sparked by the revelation of multiple rape and sexual harassment allegations against the powerful Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein in October 2017, continues to be a central part of the national debate over sexual abuse.
Since Weinstein’s downfall, many other prominent figures in media and entertainment have faced allegations of sexual abuse and harassment as women across those industries have spoken up about their experiences. It’s no surprise, then, that #MeToo and #TimesUp signs featured prominently amongst the anti-Trump ones at the march. One protester, Kirsten Herman, was holding a large black one above her head when I spoke with her. She didn’t come to last year’s march, because she “has lots” of crowd anxiety. “But I knew I had to come this year,” she said. Harassment “is such a universal thing that women have to go through all the time, and we’re done with it.”
I asked Sarah Sibilly, who marched last year, what had changed from last year to this year. “Definitely more men,” she said. “They’re probably here in solidarity more than anything.”
Daniel Robinson was one of those men. He didn’t participate last year, but said that #MeToo was the galvanizing factor this time around. “I didn’t necessarily recognize [the issue of sexual harassment] to the same degree,” he told me. “But there’s a lot more understanding of what’s going on, and realizing the importance of it really brings everyone to the forefront.”
Cindy Brummer brought her husband, Bob, along with her to the march, which neither of them attended last year. Trump “brings out the feminist” in her, she told me. She thought she had seen the end of the fight for women’s rights in the seventies, but looking at the younger generation now, she says, makes it clear that the fight is far from over.
Others I spoke with cited the nation’s current sexual-harassment reckoning as an even greater reason to protest the president, whom 19 women have accused of sexual assault. Whitted called it “crazy” that men in Hollywood, the media, and politics were getting fired while “this guy is still in office.”
Where last year’s marches were simply a rejection of Trump, this year’s events were electorally focused. The Women’s March on Washington anniversary event planned for Sunday in Las Vegas, Nevada, is being billed as “Power to the Polls” and aims to get people to register and vote ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Virtually everyone I spoke with said Democratic success in the midterms is their biggest political goal in the coming year, and see the march as a good starting point to start encouraging people to show up to polls.
Following last year’s marches, my colleague Conor Friedersdorf wrote, “The political future depends on where Trump opponents focus their energy and whether they are adept at expanding their coalition.” This year did indeed see more women than ever before sign up to run for office, and a record 28 women were elected to Virginia’s House of Delegates in the November 2017 elections. New public-opinion research conducted by SurveyMonkey also shows that Trump is losing ground amongst women—regardless of race or class—who previously supported him, a trend which will likely be consequential in the 2018 congressional midterms if it holds up.
The crucial work for the marchers still lies ahead; it’s unclear if the momentum will hold. But protesters were still hopeful: “Here we are a year later, doing it again,” one marcher, Emma Saltzberg, said. “It shows we’re here to fight and we’ll push for people to vote. You have to if you want to see change in the future.”
In other political news, the Charleston City Paper informs us that Stormy Daniels is visiting a strip club in Greenville tonight:
The club is promoting the event as part of Daniels’ “Making America Horny Again Tour” days after the Wall Street Journal reported that candidate Donald Trump paid her $130,000 through a shell company one month before the 2016 election to cover up an alleged 2006 affair. Daniels is said to have signed a non-disclosure agreement as part of the alleged payoff, but years earlier she reportedly spilled all the salacious details to InTouch Magazine about having sex with the future president…”He saw her live. You can too,” reads one poster for the event posted on The Trophy Club’s Facebook page, referring to President Donald Trump’s alleged sexual encounter with the porn star. A YouTube video promoted by the club says “The Twitter Storm Sensation” is visiting for a “one-night performance.”
The first day of the government shutdown is also the anniversary of the inauguration of the president*, and if that doesn’t convince you that a Higher Power is running things, and that the Higher Power has a sense of humor best described as perverse, I don’t know what to tell you. A year ago, he stood before an embarrassingly small crowd on the steps of the Capitol and gave the worst inaugural address in American history, even worse than the one that actually killed William Henry Harrison. A year ago Sunday, he sent his press secretary out to lie about the size of the crowd, and we were pretty much off to a year of actual American carnage.
The most striking thing about the extended burlesque in the Senate as Friday night became Saturday morning was the almost complete lack of urgency in the chamber. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, now presiding over his second government shutdown, held the cloture vote on the House’s continuing resolution open for hours after it had clearly failed, and in a resoundingly bipartisan manner.
As minutes became hours, ad hoc bipartisan groups of senators—Lindsey Graham, Jeff Flake, Maggie Hassan and Elizabeth Warren?—gathered and dispersed, like small flocks of birds, but there was no real sense that a real emergency was going on around them. There was an endless trail of rumored deals—A two-week CR? Three weeks? Pledges to deal with the Dreamer kids later?—and an equally endless train of broken promises.
“The bottom line is that time only matters if there’s will,” said Lindsey Graham, as he briefly held out hope for a three-week funding compromise that he was pushing. “I may live to eat these words, but the Congress is beginning to realize that the American people expect more of us. Between the soldier in the field and the DACA recipient, we have some real-world reasons to get our act together and grow up, I may be wrong, but I think we’re getting there.”
He was wrong. According to Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, the last real chance went a’glimmering on Friday when he spent a lot of time negotiating with the president*, and even offered a substantial concession regarding the president*’s stupid wall, only to have White House chief-of-staff John Kelly call him to tell him the framework under discussion was too liberal.
What became clear was that a) that there is a serious faction that wants the Dreamer kids out of the country, and that this faction includes Kelly, who apparently has been appointed President For Immigration Matters, xenophobic madman Stephen Miller, and Senator Tom Cotton, the bobble-throated slapdick from Arkansas, and b) that the president* himself has decided to decide by not deciding, and to lead by not leading, and that he believes the essence of being presidential is agreeing to deals that Kelly will talk him into reneging the first time he gets the president*’s ear.
Maybe gushing about a guy just because he once was a general wasn’t the best idea professional pundits ever had. Kelly’s tenure as Secretary of Homeland Security, during which he unleashed ICE to run amuck, should have hipped us all to that. As for the fact that the president* has abdicated his obligation to lead, and that his word in negotiations is not to be trusted, hell, everybody’s used to that by now. Which is probably why nobody seemed to be in any rush to get anything solved.
So, no deal was reached. Nothing happened. McConnell finally closed out the vote. And, as Saturday dawned, both Houses remained in session. The president*, or someone like him, got out the electric Twitter machine.
So the “DACA kids” are now “illegal immigrants,” and the guy who killed at least two deals in the past 10 days is complaining about how nobody wants to negotiate with him. His alleged former inamorata is doing a VIP show at a strip club not far from the godfearing campus of Bob Jones University And we have had a year of this now, a year in which we’ve all been living in what the nuns used to call, “the near occasions of sin.” Things are looking up!
You would think — and hope — that the wingers would have learned something from the 16-day shutdown that cost the country $24 billion and tarnished the already dim reputation of the U.S. economy in the world.
For a certain block of House conservatives, the ones who drove Speaker John Boehner toward a government shutdown and near-default against his will, the lesson of the last few weeks isn’t that they overreached. Not that they made unachievable demands, put their leadership in an impossible position, damaged their party’s position with the public and left a deep uncertainty about whether the GOP conference can recover and legislate.
No, what they’re taking away from the 2013 crisis is: They didn’t go far enough.
They aren’t angry with Speaker John Boehner for ultimately capitulating to Democratic demands. They’re frustrated with their more mainstream colleagues who put him in that position.
“I’m more upset with my Republican conference, to be honest with you. It’s been Republicans here who apparently always want to fight, but they want to fight the next fight, that have given Speaker Boehner the inability to be successful in this fight,” Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) told reporters Wednesday. “So if anybody should be kicked out, it’s probably those Republicans… who are unwilling to keep the promises they made to the American people. Those are the people who should be looking behind their back.”
In other words, the shutdown didn’t fail; the Republicans failed the shutdown.
Molly Ball at The Atlantic sums up the final score of the last two weeks and finds that the Republicans actually lost ground.
Let’s review: Had the House passed the “clean” continuing resolution it was offered on September 30, the government would have remained open only until November 15, at the reduced funding levels determined by the “sequestration” cuts imposed by the 2011 debt-limit deal. Republicans still would have had the debt-ceiling deadline Thursday, plus another budget fight on the horizon a month later,as perceived points of leverage. (Democrats insist this leverage is illusory as the White House would refuse to negotiate, but to Republicans, that’s what these deadlines are: valuable bargaining chips.)
Instead, the House is poised to pass a measure that funds the government through January 15 and lifts the debt ceiling until February 7—taking the heat off Congress for months and eliminating three pressure points (the September 30 funding expiration, the October 17 debt-ceiling target, and the hypothetical November 15 funding expiration) in one go. The proposed deal negotiated by Senate leaders also would force the two houses to convene a budget committee, something Democrats have been demanding since the Senate passed a budget in March—and conservative Republicans have repeatedly blocked, for fear that any compromise negotiated between the two houses would mean selling out their principles.
The “concession” extracted by the GOP in the deal, the sole change to the health-care law, is purely cosmetic: a reinstatement of the requirement that people seeking subsidies under the Affordable Care Act furnish proof that they qualify. That requirement was in the original law, but the administration delayed it when implementation hit snags in July.
Obamacare will not be repealed. Obamacare will not be defunded. Obamacare will not be delayed. The individual mandate will not be delayed. The medical-device tax will not be repealed. The health-insurance subsidies given to members of Congress and their staffs will not be taken away.
Democrats will get the government funded at levels they (grudgingly) sought in the first place, for longer than they originally sought, and without the looming threat of default.
So what did Republicans get for shutting down the government for 17 days? Their poll numbers tanked. Their gubernatorial candidate in Virginia appears headed for defeat in next month’s election. The business community is rethinking its support. Veterans and the elderly are ticked off. And any leverage they ever had to push their goals of reducing the size of government and chipping away at health-care reform is gone.
Not only that, it was revealed to the world what a colossal dick Ted Cruz is, something we might not have found out to such a degree if he was just another right-wing senator like Jeff Sessions or John Cornyn. The DNC and anyone else planning on running for office in opposition to the GOP now has hours of video of Republicans saying things ranging from the mildly stupid to the breathtakingly WTF, Confederate flags and all.
The Tea Party threatened any Republican who caved on the deal with a primary challenge, which means they plan on recruiting even more garbage to run against the garbage they already have, making it very possible for Democrats to capitalize on the whack factor in 2014. A year in politics is several geological ages in real life — the battle over sending troops to Syria was less than two months ago and yet it’s ancient history — and we know the voters have the long-term memory of a fruit fly. But a clip of Ted Cruz reading Green Eggs and Ham and played next to a grainy photo of the next rising star from your district could go a long way to getting Nancy Pelosi back in the Speaker’s chair.
Federal employees furloughed as a result of the government shutdown should expect to return to work tomorrow morning, Office of Management and Budget director Sylvia Matthews Burwell announced in a statement on Wednseday night.
“Now that the bill has passed the United States Senate and the House of Representatives, the President plans to sign it tonight and employees should expect to return to work in the morning,” Burwell said in a statement moments after the House passed a deal to avert default and reopen the government. “Employees should be checking the news and OPM’s website for further updates.”
For the employees who were furloughed, the bill passed by Congress includes back pay for the days missed.
That, after all, was the whole point of this exercise in the first place, wasn’t it? Defund, destroy, eradicate it? Heh.
So, here we are, sixteen days and FSM knows how many breathless BREAKING NEWS banners and incredibly stupid and outlandish statements from the Tea Party and minions in the Orcosphere, and what have they got to show for it? Nada, zip, zilch, and bupkis. All this screeching — enough that six banshees got out of the business — and we’re basically right back where we started: Obamacare is still with us, the debt ceiling has been kicked down the road to Groundhog Day — how appropriate — and we are all sick and tired of Ted Cruz and his beetle-browed humorless scowl.
If the Democrats and the White House feel like gloating, why not? They’ve earned it. The only thing that will dampen it is that the GOP and the Tea Party don’t know how to cook crow, much less eat it. Mature and rational people would take this kind of humiliation and learn from it, perhaps even do some introspection and think about where they went wrong. Well, we all though they would do that after the ignominy of the loss in last year’s election. They even said it was time to rethink and re-brand. And we all know how long that lasted.
This time will be no different, and I am confident that in February 2014 we’ll be right back here for the winter classic. That I am sure of.
What I’m most impressed with, though, is how President Obama was absolutely chill through the whole thing. I know I used the clip from The Godfather Part II when this all started, but it’s good for another run.
House Republicans failed to settle on a plan to avert default and re-open the shuttered government after multiple attempts crashed at the hands of conservatives, bringing the U.S. within 30 hours of breaching the debt limit deadline.
The plan stumbled within an hour of Boehner’s spokesman Michael Steel assuring reporters that “the House will vote tonight” on what was the second version that leadership had put together on Tuesday.
Conservatives scuttled it, again, and Democrats vowed to vote against it unanimously. A Rules Committee meeting aimed at fast-tracking the bill to the floor was abruptly postponed — indefinitely. Republicans conceded that the vote was probably not going to happen.
“My guess is there will not be a vote [tonight],” Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) said on CNN.
So, what’s next? “No decision has been made at this time,” said a House Republican leadership aide. “The elected leadership will meet soon.”
As I said way back when this whole current crisis started, unless there’s some Aaron Sorkin scriptwriting going on backstage, we are going to default.
Notice that I said “we.” Not the government, not the House or the Senate, not the Treasury that cuts the checks to pay the bills that are owed. We. Because this is something that we the people, either through neglect or cowardice or actual willfulness, allowed to happen. We elected all of those people running around the Capitol trying to make it to their spot for their stand-up on cable TV to get their licks in against Obamacare, against the shutdown that they caused, against whatever it is that they’re told by their minders at the Heritage Foundation to be against for this particular news cycle. (As Frank Rich chronicles, these radicals have been with us since the founding of the country.) Those folks did not get to Congress without a bunch of people somewhere in this country voting for them, which means they also had to beat someone else to win the election. This is the best of the lot?
Somewhere the spirits of the Founding Fathers are puking their guts out.
There’s a good chance that by the time this gets posted it may be out of date, but here’s how the folks at Politico (yeah, I know) think the deal will go.
Senate leaders are closing in on a deal to reopen the government and extend the U.S. debt ceiling until next year, marking a major breakthrough in an impasse that has paralyzed Washington and struck fears across the globe.
In a furious round of last-ditch negotiations, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were discussing a proposal to reopen the government until Jan. 15 and extend the national debt limit until Feb. 7. The plan under consideration would also require larger bicameral budget negotiations to conclude by Dec. 13.
There was still a sticking point Monday evening over whether to allow the Treasury Department to use “extraordinary measures” to go beyond the new Feb. 7 debt limit deadline as the White House and Reid are seeking, according to sources familiar with the matter. Republicans are opposed to that idea, but several Democratic sources insisted it would be included in the final package.
Indeed, there were growing expectations that a deal was imminent; Senate Republicans and Democrats are expected to meet Tuesday to discuss the proposal in separate closed-door caucus meetings.
The prospects for the emerging Senate deal in the GOP-led House are far from certain. And there’s a risk that major fiscal decisions are again being punted to a later time.
Republicans would win a provision to force Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services secretary, to certify that individuals receiving Obamacare subsidies meet the required income levels. The department’s inspector general would later have to conduct an audit on the matter.
Democrats would win a labor union priority to delay for one year an Obamacare reinsurance tax, which was supposed to be levied against most insurance plans to help spread the risk for insurers who take on the sickest patients next year. Delaying the fee — $63 per person covered by an insurance plan per year — could amount to a significant boon to unions. The GOP push to kill Obamacare’s medical device tax now appears to be off the table, sources said.
Like the Tigers in the ninth inning lately, it could all blow up in our faces, but at least it puts the default off for a little while, and the whole hugga-mugga about Obamacare is nowhere to be seen.
Paul Krugman has a suggestion on how to get out of the shutdown.
Call it Dixiecrats in reverse.
Here’s the precedent: For a long time, starting as early as 1938, Democrats generally controlled Congress on paper, but actual control often rested with an alliance between Republicans and conservative Southerners who were Democrats in name only. You may not like what this alliance did — among other things, it killed universal health insurance, which we might otherwise have had 65 years ago. But at least America had a functioning government, untroubled by the kind of craziness that now afflicts us.
And right now we have all the necessary ingredients for a comparable alliance, with roles reversed. Despite denials from Republican leaders, everyone I talk to believes that it would be easy to pass both a continuing resolution, reopening the government, and an increase in the debt ceiling, averting default, if only such measures were brought to the House floor. How? The answer is, they would get support from just about all Democrats plus some Republicans, mainly relatively moderate non-Southerners. As I said, Dixiecrats in reverse.
The problem is that John Boehner, the speaker of the House, won’t allow such votes, because he’s afraid of the backlash from his party’s radicals. Which points to a broader conclusion: The biggest problem we as a nation face right now is not the extremism of Republican radicals, which is a given, but the cowardice of Republican non-extremists (it would be stretching to call them moderates).
In addition, the people who control this are far more worried about their own political future than they are about the economy and our standing in it. They would rather see us default on our debt — after all, according to at least one genius it “would bring stability to the world markets” — than have John Boehner lose his speakership or lose his district in Ohio.
Ten days into a partial shutdown of the federal government that has no signs of easing, Gov. Rick Scott’s chief of staff ordered that no state funds will be used to offset any federal programs that run out of cash as a result of the federal gridlock.
In a draft letter directed to the governor’s agencies, Adam Hollingsworth, Scott’s chief of staff, said that absent a federal resolution, “it is important that we ensure that state funds are not committed as a temporary backfill to federal programs as a matter of course.”
A day after more than 100 fishing guides, kayakers and paddle board operators held a rally to protest the closure of the Everglades National Park, the governor also rejected calls to use state funds to open closed federal parks in Florida.
The federal government said Thursday it will allow states to use their own money to reopen some national parks. Governors in Utah, South Dakota, Arizona and Colorado have suggested they will do that, even though it is uncertain whether they will get reimbursed.
It’s no surprise that the most important thing to the governor is whether or not the state would get reimbursed. Magnanimity and empathy for the people out of work never entered into the equation.