The clock is ticking. Basically, the political and legislative happenings of the week have focused on an impending government shutdown with a heavy dose of debt ceiling drama. Yes, chaos is the local industry in DC.
We want to share some of the highlights with you.
The Capstone National Partners Team (John Rogers, Alan MacLeod, Steve Moffitt, Diane Rogers, Erik Oksala, Kate Venne, Jodi Hrdina and Joyce Rubenstein)
IS THIS EVEN POSSIBLE? The Fix writes, “The 113th Congress…more partisan than the 112th? Just in case the ongoing ping-pong match between the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate over funding the government beyond Monday didn’t convince you of the political polarization gripping the nation’s Capital, there’s new data that shows the two parties are — surprise! — getting further and further apart.The new numbers come courtesy of the VoteView blog, which analyzed the votes cast so far in the 113th Congress — through the August recess — to determine the relative polarization of the two parties in the House.
IN NON-NERD TERMS Republicans in Congress continued to grow more ideological over the first eight months of 2013 while Democrats’ partisanship stayed relatively steady. That’s in keeping with a long term polarization trend in the House that began in the early 1980s. Since that time, both parties have grown increasingly more polarized in their votes but Republicans’ polarization numbers have moved up further — and faster — than Democrats. If you’re waiting for a return of the olden days of the two parties working together, this chart suggests you better get comfortable because it could be a while. One chart tells it all.
The President says, ‘I’m not going to negotiate.’ Well, I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way.” – Speaker Boehner
“The Republicans …. say: ‘Give us these things or we will blow up the economy.’ … What we’re not for is negotiating with people with a bomb strapped to their chest.”
– Dan Pfeiffer, White House Senior Advisor
HERE WE GO … SENATE PASSES SPENDING BILL Washington Postwrites, “The Senate passed a short-term spending bill Friday after voting to restore funding for President Obama’s health-care law, sending the measure back to the House, just four days before a threatened federal government shutdown. The vote on final passage was a straight party-line vote (54-44). The measure is intended to keep the government operating through Nov. 15.”
ENDGAME (Best Summary I’ve read) With just four days until the government turns out the lights, Politico lays out three Choose-Your-Own-Adventure scenarios: “They are all very messy and each would trigger either an immediate crisis or set the stage for an even more damaging showdown over the debt limit. House Republicans are in disarray as the leadership discards one strategy after another, unable to unify the conference. The Senate [will] send a funding bill back to the House that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has already said he can’t accept. For his part, President Barack Obama is waiting on the sidelines for the Republicans to figure out their next move. And the debt ceiling increase that’s needed by mid-October further complicates the end game for congressional leaders. The lack of any serious negotiations – and any clarity whatsoever – so close to the Oct. 1 deadline to renew government funding appears to increase the likelihood of a shutdown. But it’s not yet a foregone conclusion.” — Here’s how it possibly could all go down:
1) Republicans fold now – and fight later on the debt limit. The GOP suffers from PTSD when it comes to government shutdowns. It took the political hit for the last one, in 1995-96, and many members worry about history repeating itself. That’s why Republicans could decide to accept a clean funding bill, keep the government open and move on – demanding to curtail, delay or defund Obamacare in exchange for raising the debt limit next month.
2) Buy more time. Boehner could deploy a temporary escape hatch. Here’s how it would work: The House would take up the Senate’s funding bill, add another provision that takes aim at Obamacare and then send it back to the Senate alongside a short extension to keep the government running for another week or so. It would allow Republicans to keep up the fight on health care while avoiding an imminent shutdown.
3) Go over the ledge. The government shutdown threat has hung over Washington since the 2010 election ushered dozens of tea party Republicans into Congress on the promise of slicing federal spending. So just let them go ahead and DO IT; some Democrats concede privately. This is their reasoning: Tea party Republicans would get what they’ve been clamoring for, GOP leaders would prove once and for all that the public doesn’t like it one bit – and in their hobbled state, Republicans would agree to renew government funding and raise the debt limit.”
JUST SOME OF WHAT A SHUTDOWN WOULD LOOK LIKE Washington Post writes, “Visa and passport applications from almost half a million prospective travelers would sit untouched every week, and late tax filers facing an Oct. 15 deadline would find the phone lines at the IRS dead. The National Zoo and museums on the Mall would close to the public. The WIC program, which provides food to 8.9 million low-income women and children, would be out of money, its supporters say. And in the District, garbage could go uncollected.”
POLITICAL ANARCHIST OR GENIUS Politico asks, “You can get ahead in politics by ticking off some of the people in Washington all of the time, or all of the people in Washington some of the time. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is testing the consequences of ticking off everyone in Washington all of the time. With his obviously doomed campaign this month against funding the Affordable Care Act, Cruz triggered a wave of vitriol from his fellow Republicans, who lampooned his outsized ego, over-the-top rhetoric and dubious legislative tactics. The avalanche of criticism both threatens Cruz’s status as a GOP golden boy – and strengthens his profile as a kind of tea party folk hero for whom Washington’s hatred is a badge of honor.”
IT WAS A CONFUSING END The New York Times writes, “The strange series of events started with Senator Cruz’s marathon speech of 21 hours and 19 minutes – which began Tuesday afternoon and went on until noon on Wednesday – and ended with the unanimous vote (100-to-0) to cut off debate and proceed to consideration of a bill passed by the House (the outcome that Sen. Cruz had tried to stop) that would keep the government open past Monday. Mr. Cruz’s ‘yes’ vote angered fellow Senate Republicans, baffled Democrats and confused conservative activists who had mobilized to stand with him against any procedural step forward.
JOHN McCAIN LASHED OUT at Cruz on the Senate floor for comparing those who don’t agree with his Obamacare strategy to Nazi appeasers, reports Reuters.
NOT USING “INSIDE” VOICES Sen. Ted Cruz’s move to delay Thursday votes on the CR until today drew a sharp rebuke from fellow Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee. Politico reports, “In a highly unusual Republican v. Republican exchange, Corker accused Cruz of delaying a Thursday vote simply to create a ‘show’ to cater to his conservative activist supporters at the expense of making good policy. And Corker ridiculed Cruz’s 21-hour floor speech earlier this week, saying never before in the ‘the history of the country’ has a senator delivered such a marathon speech before casting a vote in favor of debating the measure he or she has sought to block.”
WHY DO WE HAVE A DEBT CEILING ANYWAY? The Fix writes, “what is the debt ceiling and why does American have one?” THIS IS A MUST WATCH.
REPUBLICANS UNITING BEHIND GUTTING OBAMACARE: PART II National Journal writes, “Many Republicans were highly dubious – if not downright furious – at Ted Cruz’s threat to use a government shutdown as leverage to gut Obamacare. But employing similar tactics for hiking the debt ceiling? Well, that’s a different question entirely. A large number of Senate and House Republicans are raising the threat of a debt default to curtail, delay or defund President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. It’s a major gamble – risking the prospect of a first-ever default on U.S. debt – but it’s one seriously being considered by the same Republicans who have refused to join Cruz’s filibuster attempt of the stopgap spending bill to keep the government running. … Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who dubbed Cruz’s threat to shut down the government over Obamacare the ‘dumbest idea’ he’d ever heard, said Congress shouldn’t give Obama a debt ceiling increase without attaching strings, and the president ‘is going to pay some price for it, which is a benefit for the American people.’…
SHIFT IN STRATEGY is a sign of how Republicans – tired of being divided over tactics in this fall’s fiscal fights – are eagerly looking to unite in the next battle, hoping to win concessions from the White House. Many Republicans believe that … on raising the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling, they’re on much firmer polical ground to demand some spending cuts or changes to Obamacare…”
WALL STREET TO GOP: ARE YOU CRAZY? Politico writes, “Political analysts and market experts say this strategy (of using the debt hike battle to gut Obamacare) could wind up doing lasting damage to both the US economy and the GOP’s national political standing. The fundamental flaw: There is no scenario under which the GOP is going to achieve its main stated goal, delaying Obamacare, through a debt limit showdown. The White House and Senate Dems would never agree to such a demand.”
“The country will hit its debt limit no later than Oct. 17.” -Treasury Secretary Jack Lew informed Congress on Wednesday.
HEALTH CARE EXCHANGES TO OPEN ON OCT. 1 In spite of all the rhetoric this week, yes, this is actually going to happen.
NEW HITCH HITS OBAMACARE ROLLOUT Wall Street Journal writes, “The Obama administration acknowledged … a technological problem is forcing it to delay part of the rollout of the new health-care law, saying insurance exchanges won’t be ready to accept online applications from small businesses when the program launches Tuesday. [The small business exchange should be ready on November 1.] With less than five days left to debug the sprawling new computer system, there are other signs of trouble: People close to the situation are also skeptical the online marketplaces for individual customers will be fully ready.”
MOTOR CITY “Obama Set to Deliver $320 Million to Restart Bankrupt Detroit,” by Bloomberg, “President Obama is committing at least $320 million in aid to help revive bankrupt Detroit, including money to remove blighted buildings, hire police and firefighters and improve transit systems. The NYTIMES writes, “So with the chances that Congress would pass any legislation for Detroit ‘somewhere between zero and zero,’ as an administration official put it, Mr. Obama has fallen back on what he can do through executive actions, with available money and tax credits, or through partnerships with local businesses and foundations.”
PRAYER PERFECTLY SUMS IT UP Washington Post writes, “Capturing the sense of uncertainty gripping Capitol Hill, Senate Chaplain Barry C. Black called on lawmakers Friday during his opening prayer to “keep us from shackling ourselves with the chains of dysfunction,” adding later: “Lord, deliver us from governing by crisis, empowering us to be responsible stewards of your bounty.”