Shutdown Saturday?

Harry Reid’s introduction of an omnibus spending bill yesterday launched a game of Congressional chicken, and it looks as though both sides may be digging in their heels with just three days left before a government shutdown.  The current continuing resolution allowing the federal government to function expires on Saturday, at which time Congress and President Obama have to have some mechanism for keeping the doors open.  Reid wants Republicans to allow a 2,000-page omnibus bill to pass without having time to read it or offer a significant number of amendments, and Republicans want another continuing resolution:

There is little Christmas cheer on Capitol Hill this week, as Republicans and Democrats prepare for another showdown, this time involving a $1.1 trillion Omnibus spending bill loaded to the brim with pork that would keep the government funded until the next fiscal year.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that he intends to put the bill to a vote before Congress adjourns. Republicans countered that there is not enough time for sufficient debate on such a massive bill, and proposed that Congress pass a temporary Continuing Resolution that will keep the government funded until February instead.

So far, neither side has budged. With just four days left until the last temporary funding patch expires, the federal government will shut down if Congress cannot come to an agreement by Saturday.

Oh, it gets better.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint has demanded that the entire 1,924 page bill be read aloud on the Senate floor. That means Reid cannot file for cloture on the measure until at least Thursday, which puts the first available time the Senate cannot vote on the bill back to…you guessed it…Saturday.

Will the game of chicken continue through to an actual shutdown?  John Cornyn insists that “nobody’s talking about shutting down the government,” mindful perhaps of the blowback the GOP received when they used that as an explicit strategy.  While Republicans blamed Democrats for waiting on the budget to the very last minute and creating the situation, Harry Reid’s spokeman Jim Manley pointed out that Republicans pretty obviously had time to participate in the drafting process — as evidenced by their earmarks within it.  Cornyn and John Thune combined for more than 70 earmarks alone.

On the other hand, this bill so obviously flies in the face of the midterm election results that Republicans might just call Reid’s bluff.  Democrats did have all year to get the budget in place, but deliberately chose to avoid accountability for their spending in the November elections, a decision that turned out to be pointless.  Instead of getting right to the budget, Reid chose to attempt to push a number of wish-list items through the Senate first, failing miserably on all of them.  And until January 5th, Democrats still run Capitol Hill with a fellow Democrat in the White House.  If anyone gets blamed for failing to produce a budget, it won’t be Republicans this time.