Two short-term spending agreements temporarily averted a possible government shutdown earlier this year, but now, Congress has run out of delay strategies. The federal government really will shut down if the GOP-controlled House and the Democratic-led Senate can't agree on a long-term budget by April 8. So far, House Republicans have passed a budget for the current fiscal year with $61 billion in discretionary spending cuts, and Democrats have reportedly countered with a broader package of about $30 billion in cuts — far more than the Left wanted to concede, but not nearly enough to appease the Tea Party Right. If Congress can't reach a deal, a prospect that is rapidly fading, who should we blame?
If Nancy Pelosi and her party had "done their job last year," and passed a budget for this fiscal year, there would be no threat of a shutdown, says Robert Stacy McCain at The Other McCain. But they postponed dealing with the budget until after the midterms, so "any attempt to scapegoat the GOP for this situation is nothing but a damned lie." Besides, the Democrats' counteroffer is so insignificant, says Karen Beseth in The Lonely Conservative, it's "like me cutting a trip to McDonald's to save my family budget."
The GOP isn't interested in the deficit, they're interested in scoring political points, says Ezra Klein in The Washington Post. They're balking at the Democrats' offer because it doesn't "cut in the way the GOP wants," not because the cuts aren't deep enough. Listening to House leaders, you "wouldn't know that Democrats, who control both the White House and the Senate, technically have a lot more power than Republicans." Basically, the GOP is offering "a raised middle finger" to the Democrats' outstretched hand, and "doing everything possible to force a government shutdown," says Jed Lewison in Daily Kos. This "overreach" will come back to bite them.
3. The White House
President Obama named Vice President Joe Biden his point man on the budget talks, but "Republicans say Biden has been virtually invisible since an initial March 4 meeting to start negotiations," says Matt Negrin in Politico. Meanwhile, Democrats say Biden is "the closer," a role he played in last December's tax cuts deal, and is keeping close tabs on the stalled negotiations. But "the White House could step in and negotiate the deal directly with House Republicans," like it did in December, says David Dayen in Firedoglake. So far, they have not.
4. Tea Partiers
On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) placed the blame for the deadlock squarely on a "division between the Tea Party and mainstream Republicans." The "Tea Party Republicans are scrapping all the progress we have made and threatening to shut down the government if they do not get all of their extreme demands," he groused. "Reid certainly has cause for frustration," says Alex Altman in TIME. But it's more House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) using "the specter of a Tea Party revolt to pull off a coup," rather than the "rank-and-file hard-liners" actually making themselves an obstacle.
5. The media
Republicans point out that the only people hyperventilating about a government shutdown have been "Democrats (and reporters)," says Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo. And if there is a shutdown, "the sympathetic liberal media" will blather on "about all the suffering that shutdown is causing," says Rob Port at Say Anything. And that "could very well sour the public at large on a push for spending cuts."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- America created the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria? Meet the ISIS 'truthers'
- How American businessmen are ruining American business — and the U.S. economy
- The Obama era is over. The presidency continues.
- Russia's giant spy ship was a high-tech disaster waiting to happen
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- On ISIS, neocons and liberal hawks have a 'boy who cried wolf' problem
- How Harry Houdini escaped death
- Fall movie guide: All the films you should see in September
- 10 things you need to know today: September 2, 2014
- The 10 best networking tips for people who hate networking
Subscribe to the Week