Inching ever closer to a shutdown

INCHING EVER CLOSER TO A SHUTDOWN…. The current funding for the federal government will expire on March 4, leaving three possible outcomes over the next 15 days: (1) Congress and the White House agree to a spending bill for the rest of the fiscal year; (2) they agree to a temporary spending measure while negotiations continue; or (3) the government shuts down.

The conventional wisdom has been that policymakers would likely go with the second option. It doesn’t seem especially unreasonable — Congress can just keep the status quo for a little while longer, while working with the White House on a larger compromise.

Today, however, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) insisted this isn’t quite good enough.

Speaker John Boehner is holding the line on spending for the rest of the fiscal year, saying he will not move another continuing resolution at current funding levels if the House and Senate can’t come to an agreement on a final bill before March 4.

“When we say we are going to cut spending, read my lips, we are going to cut spending,” the Ohio Republican said at a press conference Thursday. “We’re hopeful the Senate will take up the House-passed bill that comes out of here today, tonight, tomorrow morning, whenever it is. … I am not going to move any type of short-term CR at current levels.”

In other words, Boehner wants a fourth option: policymakers can approve a temporary spending measure while negotiations continue, but only if it includes the job-killing cuts Republicans want. Mr. “So Be It” is effectively trying to narrow the options — Dems can go along with a continuing resolution that includes deep cuts, or Republicans will shut down the government.

I said the other day the odds of a shutdown are roughly 50%. As of today, I’d say they’re now about 60%, if not a little higher.

In related news, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) said the other day that a shutdown wouldn’t be too big a deal: “The government is not going to shut down, it’s not going to stop. People aren’t going to lose their Social Security checks and they’re not going to lose their access to Medicare and Medicaid.”

The problem with this, of course, is that Mike Kelly has no idea what he’s talking about. When the government shuts down, Social Security checks are not mailed, and Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements do not happen.

It raises an important point: Republicans aren’t just moving closer to a train wreck, they’re doing so based on little more than their own ignorance, making threats without a grown-up understanding of the consequences. This is what happens when confused, unprepared children are elected to run a legislative body.