Government shutdown looks inevitable

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN LOOKS INEVITABLE…. Yesterday was supposed to be the day policymakers made progress towards some kind of budget deal, averting a government shutdown, which is set to begin this Friday. Instead, the entire process went backwards yesterday.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) agreed privately last week to $33 billion in cuts — more cuts than he’d even asked for originally, and the largest one-time spending-cut package in American history — before reversing course yesterday, saying the total is “not enough.”

Making matters slightly worse, House GOP leaders said the kind of cuts Democrats are offering aren’t good enough — some of the cuts Dems are offering would apply only to this budget plan, and Republicans are insisting that the cuts “permanently reduce the size of government.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) released an especially interesting statement late yesterday afternoon, needling Boehner for being such a weak Speaker.

“A compromise on the budget is right there for the taking, assuming the Speaker still wants one. We take it for granted that because of the intense political pressure being applied by the Tea Party, the Speaker needs to play an outside game as well as an inside game.

“As long as he continues to negotiate, it’s OK by us if he needs to strike a different pose publicly. Since last week, the two sides have made steady progress on a package of $33 billion in cuts. This is an historic level of spending cuts, it is the halfway mark between the two sides, and the Speaker has already agreed to this number privately. Differences may remain over where exactly the cuts should come from, but the only real question left is whether the political will exists to buck the Tea Party.

“At this point, we are so far down the road towards an agreement, and so little time remains before Friday’s deadline, that it would be a dramatic about-face for the Speaker to suddenly let things devolve into a shutdown, as many in the Tea Party are urging. As a result, we remain hopeful a deal will be reached.”

Except, of course, there’s no reason to be hopeful — Boehner heads a right-wing caucus that doesn’t believe in compromise, won’t accept concessions, and doesn’t care what its own Speaker negotiates.

President Obama will personally oversee talks today at the White House with the relevant players from both parties and both chambers, but it’s unclear exactly what’s left to talk about.

For their part, Republican leaders announced a new stunt last night — after vowing that they would, under no circumstances, consider another temporary extension, GOP officials said they’re crafting one more continuing resolution. This one, however, would cut $12 billion over one week — as opposed the $2 billion a week figure Republicans have been using — and include an anti-abortion rider.

In other words, Republicans are crafting an extension that’s designed to fail on purpose so they can try to point the finger elsewhere when the government shuts down.

The GOP is, once again, playing a silly political game when it should be working. Of course, working is hard, and governing requires mature officials exercising power responsibly, and we’re stuck with intemperate children running the House of Representatives.

While the White House talks are held today, House Republicans will circulate a pamphlet “outlining the procedures Congressional offices should take during a government shutdown.” The Obama administration has also begun instructing agency officials “to begin sharing details of shutdown contingency plans with top managers.”

Thanks again midterm voters for ignoring the warnings and creating this mess.