Via the Corner, something to keep you occupied while we wait for shutdown fee-vah to resume at 2 p.m. ET. That’s when Reid will — finally — call the Senate into session to reject the House’s new CR demanding a one-year delay to ObamaCare. Then it’ll be back to the House for Boehner’s Plan C, assuming there is one. There was chatter yesterday about maybe bringing up Vitter’s amendment to deny O-Care subsidies to members of Congress and staff, but House conservatives seem to think that’s weak tea. A one-year delay of the law seems to be as far as they’re willing to go, and Reid’s going to kill that off within the next few hours. Which means Boehner either (1) has to cut the conservatives loose and pass something with Democratic help, which might put his Speakership in trouble; (2) pass a clean “stopgap” funding resolution for a week or two to keep negotiations with the Democrats going, something conservatives also might not accept; or (3) bring on the shutdown and hope for the best, even if “the best” means the GOP taking a beating in public opinion until House conservatives relent.
There’s always a chance that Obama will cave and decide to agree to some sort of face-saving compromise. But maybe Obama’s not driving this train anymore:
When the president considered sitting down with the four congressional leaders in the White House ahead of the deadline to avert a government shutdown, Reid privately urged Obama to call off the meeting, according to several people familiar with the situation. Reid believed that it would amount to nothing more than a photo-op that would give the false impression that a serious negotiation was occurring, even warning he wouldn’t attend such a session. Obama scrapped it.
As Washington barrels forward to the first government shutdown in 17 years on Tuesday, the wily Reid has taken the lead role in pushing a hardball Democratic legislative strategy that can be summed up like this: Make the Republicans cave…
Reid’s strategy boils down to a few factors: If Democrats give even a few small concessions on a short-term stopgap funding measure, Republicans will demand even bigger concessions to avoid a debt default in mid-October. Since Republicans have been engulfed in an intraparty war over how far to take a shutdown threat, Reid and his top lieutenants are convinced that the political backlash from a shutdown would be devastating to the GOP, potentially costing them their majority in the House.
Actually, that raises possibility (4): Maybe Boehner can convince House conservatives to punt all of this to next month’s debt-ceiling showdown, when the GOP will have more leverage. Paul Ryan hinted at something like that this weekend, although Ted Cruz reportedly advised House conservatives to insist on concessions now, as part of funding the government. That may be a rare point of agreement between RINOs and “true conservatives”: Some RINOs might prefer brinksmanship now, even if it means a shutdown for awhile, to brinksmanship later with the threat of default hanging in the balance. The stakes will be way higher then and, the theory goes, if tea partiers get this “out of their system” now, they’ll be less likely to go to the mat again next month. I’m … not sure how that logic works, though. Unless Reid and Obama cave now and give up something important on ObamaCare, House conservatives will conclude that a government shutdown simply isn’t enough leverage and that they need to be twice as obstinate when it comes to the debt ceiling. The only thing that might convince them otherwise would be a sharp public backlash to a shutdown, but what constitutes “sharp”? And how long would the shutdown need to last to achieve sharpness? I think Boehner will bend and pass something with Democrats if this stretches more than 10 days or so. And then, with the debt ceiling on his plate, he may finally conclude that this job isn’t worth the trouble anymore and do it again.
By the way, the first casualty of the shutdown looks like to be Pandacam. Steel yourselves, my friends.