Q. What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?
A. Yes, something has to give.
Meanwhile, we watch the daily drama unfold in Washington and across the country. With such a dynamic situation, the Capstone Team has been blogging constantly, and we urge you to check out the latest on our blog.
Basically there has been one political and legislative story this week, we want to share some of highlights (or low lights… it’s all perspective).
The Capstone National Partners Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Steve Moffitt, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala, Kate Venne, Jodi Hrdina and Joyce Rubenstein)
“NO WAY TO RUN A COUNTRY” … The cover of The Economist
ADMIT IT: YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT A ‘CONTINUING RESOLUTION’ IS…
A short guide to some of the jargon you may be hearing or reading.
SHUTDOWN – DAY FOUR The Hill reports, “House Republicans are gathering today to debate what their ask will be in the merging fights over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling. While Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has indicated he won’t be dictating strategy, members are clearly looking to him for direction. … House Republicans are in agreement that the White House and Senate Democrats must negotiate with them on reopening the government and avoiding a potentially historic default. But with the deadline for raising the $16.7 trillion borrowing limit less than two weeks away, they also admit they are forging ahead without a clear endgame in mind.”
“Everybody’s tried to envision one [an end game], but nobody has it yet. Honestly, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
– Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), Speaker Boehner ally
BLAME GAME The Fix writes, “Americans are blaming congressional Republicans more than President Obama for causing Tuesday’s federal government shutdown, according to the first polls conducted since Washington came to a halt at midnight Monday. CHECK OUT CBS NEWS and FOX NEWS POLL
ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live” had to ask 17 people if they approve of the job Congress is doing before he found one who said “yes.”
A GRAND BARGAIN? SO NOT HAPPENING. Bob Costa, National Review’s Washington editor, on the latest Republican gambit to solve the government shutdown, “House Republicans tell me Speaker John Boehner wants to craft a ‘grand bargain’ on fiscal issues as part of the debt-limit deliberations. …Rewind to the summer of 2011 when Boehner and Obama were engaged in, by all accounts, real conversations about something approaching a grand bargain. … Fast forward to today … one thing is now abundantly clear: there is a semi-open revolt against [Boehner’s] leadership among 40-45 cast-iron conservatives. Reaching across the aisle to Obama could well end his time as speaker. And, the collapse of the grand bargain of 2011 did damage to the Obama-Boehner relationship that still hasn’t been repaired (or come close to being repaired). Boehner has said publicly that he will never again negotiate one-on-one with Obama, and the president barely masks his disdain for a Republican leader who he believes either won’t or can’t lead. Add it all up and here’s what you get: The possibility of a grand bargain seems remote — at best. At this point, a medium bargain — some combination of tax reform and minor entitlement reform coupled with reopening the government and raising the debt ceiling — even seems like a long shot. It may be time for Congress and the White House to lower their collective aspirations.”
“An approach to the debt ceiling that says one will not vote for its extension unless ObamaCare is defunded is the political equivalent of playing Russian roulette with all the chambers of the gun loaded. It is the ultimate no-win strategy. You cannot in politics take a hostage you cannot shoot. That is what the debt ceiling is. At some point, the debt ceiling will have to be increased not because it is a good idea but because it is the only idea. Defaulting on the nation’s obligations, which is the alternative to not increasing the debt ceiling, is not an option either substantively or politically.”
– Judd Gregg (former R-NH, currently CEO of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association)
SHUTDOWN OVER. EASY. The Fix writes, “Here’s an interesting political conundrum: The federal government could re-open tomorrow. But it would end John Boehner’s speakership. There are currently 19 House Republicans on the record in support of a “clean” continuing resolution, meaning one without any other extraneous measures — like the defunding or delaying of Obamacare — attached. Combine those nineteen with the 200 Democrats who would almost certainly vote as a bloc in support of such a clean CR and you get 219 votes — a majority of the House. The bill has already been passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate, so it would go to straight to President Obama who would sign it. OOPS Except one little thing, to do so, the Ohio Republican right now would have to rely on a bare majority of his Republican colleagues as well as votes from Democratic members. And that could put Boehner’s grasp on the speakership in jeopardy if the unwieldy group of Tea Party conservatives he’s overseen for the past two and a half years finds their leader guilty of violating the party’s principles or making a misstep in the budget negotiations.”
A BIT OF CONTEXT On Jan. 1, 2013, Boehner put the deal to avert the fiscal cliff on the House floor. It passed with 257 votes — just 85 of which came from Republicans. Later that month, the House voted in favor of relief money for Hurricane Sandy victims although just 49 Republicans supported it. Then in February, the House re-authorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with just 87 Republican votes. In all three cases, a minority of Republican House Members backed the measure. So there is precedent and peril in allowing a vote.
POLITICAL SUICIDE Without some sort of major concession — something he can go to his GOP conference with and say, “See, they gave in on this” — it would be political suicide for him to bring up a clean continuing resolution supported by less than 10% of his conference. So, the government will remain shut unless that sort of deal is made or Boehner decides that he’s had enough of being Speaker.
DECLARE VICTORY AND GET OUT Some in our shop think that Boehner would be a hero if he stood up, allowed a vote and said, we’re not going to be controlled by a minority within a majority.
SENATE 2014 The Washington Post reports, “The political fallout … does not appear likely to affect the House Republicans who instigated it, given that so many of them come from deeply conservative districts where their constituents cheered the confrontation with President Obama. But others in the GOP are worried. “Party veterans say they are increasingly concerned that a prolonged standoff in Washington could damage their prospects for winning back the Senate in 2014.”You can see that in the different reaction of Senate Republicans” compared with their House counterparts, a prominent GOP pollster said.”
DEMS UNLIKELY TO WIN BACK HOUSE IN ’14 Democrats need to pick up 17 seats to takeover the House, but that is unlikely, in large measure, because of redistricting, Charlie Cook notes: “A Democratic takeover would require a huge wave running against the party not in the White House, something that hasn’t happened since Franklin Roosevelt’s first few years in office.” … “
WHY REDISTRICTING CHANGED EVERYTHING GovBeat continues, “In 1995, the last time the federal government shut down, less than a third of all Republican members of Congress held seats with Partisan Voting Indices of Republican + 10, according to an analysis by David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report. Today, more than half of all Republicans in the House — 122 of 232 — come from districts that fall into that heavily Republican column. That means members of Congress are more vulnerable in their primaries, where they might face challengers who declare them insufficiently conservative, than they are in general elections. Republican primary voters, who are by definition more conservative than the electorate as a whole, hold disproportionate sway over those incumbents. Meanwhile, the lucrative contributions from business interests, which for decades have been major sources of campaign cash for Republicans, become less important in a general election, as general elections themselves become less important than primaries. Most of the Republican incumbents who have lost primaries in recent years — including Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), ex-senators Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and ex-representative Joe Schwartz (R-Mich.), to name a few — have vastly outspent their ultimately successful challengers. Until the 2010 tea party wave and the rash of primary challenges against incumbent members, the influence of conservative activists built slowly and quietly.
COMING OUT PARTY Today …. the shift of power from business interests to conservative activists is complete. Until the 2010 tea party wave and the rash of primary challenges against incumbent members, the influence of conservative activists built slowly and quietly.”
WHERE’S MARCO RUBIO? … just wondering.
COMPASSIONATE CONSERVATIVES LAMENT THEIR DEMISE The National Journal writes, “We’re not finished committing suicide here,” said Republican strategist John Weaver, a veteran of the McCain and Huntsman campaigns. “We also have the opportunity to kill immigration reform, and the odds are that we will do that, just to make sure we’re the angry-white-man party.” He says the party may need a George McGovern-sized defeat with a candidate like Ted Cruz before it chooses another path. Mark McKinnon, a former Bush strategist, is hoping for a more immediate course correction. “Now that the country has seen what compassionless conservatives have wrought,” he says, “perhaps the GOP will start to regain a hunger for compassionate conservatives.” Dick Armey, the former House Republican leader, sees defeat looming on both the PR and policy fronts. “I don’t know that I have ever seen Republicans gain one inch of ground towards their stated objective by precipitating a government shutdown,” he said.
NO LONG TERM DAMAGE Gallup historical data suggest the GOP won’t suffer long-term damage as a result of the shutdown, but the context for this one is different: It is happening in a dragging economy, it is coming amid other unpopular stands, and it could be followed – or accompanied – by a debt-ceiling disaster.”
MINI-FUNDING BILLS Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, NBC’s Frank Thorp reports that House Republicans have introduced 11 more “rifle-shot CR” mini-funding bills for specific programs and agencies to be considered in the coming days. This will continue to be the strategy for House Republicans, as they try “to address situations that are in critical stages,” as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) put it Thursday during a press conference. Thorp adds that the bills address issues that Republicans have been pressured to fund using this strategy — such as Head Start programs, food and drug safety, and federal worker backpay. It’s likely that each of the bills will pass, as the previous five that the House has already considered did, and they will then be sent to the Senate. The real question is whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will take them up, as he’s already said he opposes the strategy, and the White House has threatened to veto bills such as these.”
ESCAPING FURLOUGH Politico reports, “The government shutdown is leaving federal agencies closed, national parks roped off, hundreds of thousands of federal employees out of work and museums in the dark. But in some Senate offices, it’s like nothing has changed. Unlike the executive branch, where the OMB issued specific rules about which workers are essential and which must be furloughed, each member of Congress can decide for themselves how many of their staffers continue to work during the shutdown. So when given the option, Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AK), Tom Coburn (R-OK), James Inhofe (R-OK), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Carl Levin (D-MI), John Thune (R-SD) and Mark Udall (D-CO, decided to furlough no one.
HEALTH EXCHANGES OPEN FOR BUSINESS The Wall Street Journal writes, “The health-insurance marketplaces at the center of President Barack Obama’s health law saw a surge of consumer interest Tuesday that surprised even many of the law’s backers. But the debut proved patchy, with few applicants actually able to buy coverage on clogged websites that were bedeviled with technological problems. Federal officials said more than 2.8 million visitors between midnight and late afternoon contributed to long wait times at the website they are running for 36 states.”
LOTS TO LOOK FORWARD TO (H/T Gail Collins):
October 17 – Debt Ceiling Crashthrough!
November 15 – Government runs out of funding (presuming it ever gets its funding back)
And then, you know, it’s the holidays.