After all the debt ceiling theatrics that dominated the summer — and the collective sigh of relief at their conclusion (even though the final deal was not a real solution!), it was easiest to forget the federal government was still running on stopgap measures and not an actual budget. Better to forget that than to immediately and wearily wind ourselves up for another heartbreaking round of championing salvific spending cuts only to eventually make painful political concessions that would ultimately shove all meaningful work onto a nebulous future Super Committee.
So, here we are again, facing a government shutdown. Is this emotion I’m experiencing in regard to it ennui? If it is, time to snap out of it — because a CNN poll shows a plurality of Americans would blame Republicans if the government did, indeed, shut down. That was true in March of this year, too, but Americans would blame GOPers by even greater margins now than they would have then. In March, 36 percent of those polled said they would blame the president and 46 percent said they would blame Republicans. Today, just 33 percent would blame Barack, while 47 percent would blame the GOP.
That would be fine if Republicans were to blame. But they’re so patently not. To go back a bit, the government has had to resort to Continuing Resolutions in the first place primarily because Democrats last year failed to pass appropriations bills and because the Democrat-controlled Senate still refuses to pass a budget. But even the specifics of this particular case ought to cause onlookers to blame the Democrats. The House — true to the trend it set long ago — has already passed a measure to fund the government through Nov. 18, but the Senate refuses to pass the bill as is. The problem? The Senate objects to any kind of offsets for disaster relief funding.
More details from The Wall Street Journal:
The Senate initially wanted to allocate $7 billion for disaster relief next year, but ultimately Democrats agreed to the $3.65 billion figure set by House Republicans. Republicans want to offset that spending with a $1.5 billion cut in a program that provides loans for makers of high-efficiency cars and components, which Democrats say has created or protected about 40,000 jobs. Republicans also want to cut $100 million from a program that provided a loan guarantee for the solar-component company Solyndra LLC, which has since gone bankrupt and whose practices are under investigation.
In other words, Democrats would rather derail the government than cut funding to a couple of government programs, including the program that yielded the questionable loan to Solyndra.
The Senate right now is voting on an amendment offered by Harry Reid that would eliminate the offsets. If the amendment passes, the Senate will likely go on to pass a bill that would fund the government through Oct. 4, passing the buck back to the House. But as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has explained, to vote for the Reid amendment is to succumb to the argument that we must borrow more money just to be able to provide disaster relief.
“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democrats are threatening to shut down government because they insist that disaster funds be borrowed, not offset,” Sen. Paul said. “In other words, the Democrats are insisting we must increase our national debt by borrowing new funds or they will shut down the government.”
“Only in the bizarre world that is Washington, could anyone insist that we borrow more money rather than do the responsible thing and find budgetary offsets for new spending,” he continued.
Heritage Action has keyvoted the roll call on the Reid Amendment — and rightly. Its likely passage — and the likely Senate passage of another stopgap measure that won’t be acceptable to the House — doesn’t change that the threat of a shutdown could be averted once and for all if Democrats would just do what they are legally obligated to do and pass a budget.
Update: One last thing — the CNN poll doesn’t even offer Americans the option of blaming Senate Democrats. That’s a little misleading, don’t you think?
Update (AP): Whew!
In a step back from the brink, Senate Democrats and Republicans have agreed on a continuing resolution that would include $2.5 billion in disaster aid funding and which would eliminate the chance of a government shutdown next week.
Even while Senate Republicans were filibustering a continuing resolution and disaster aid bill Monday, Senate aides in both parties said they had reached a deal on compromise legislation with reduced disaster aid funding. The chamber will invoke cloture on a new “clean CR” with about $2.5 billion in disaster aid funding, rather than the $3.65 billion in the latest continuing resolution that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., offered Friday. Senators will then immediately pass the bill. The bill also lasts through Nov. 18. The Senate is also expected to pass on Monday a continuing resolution lasting one week. The House is expected to approve the one-week continuing resolution by unanimous consent on Thursday. The House will then approve the longer CR next week.