Shutdown deadline still looms

SHUTDOWN DEADLINE STILL LOOMS…. With all that’s going on, it’s easy to forget that current funding for the U.S. government runs out in just seven days. If Congress can’t pass another extension, a shutdown will begin a week from today at midnight.

Except, no one seems to think that’s likely. Shortly before the previous March 4 deadline, lawmakers struck a compromise, keeping the lights on for two additional weeks, ostensibly to give officials time to work out a deal for the rest of the fiscal year. As you might have noticed, that hasn’t happened.

But the desire for a shutdown, at least at the leadership level, is still nonexistent, so we’re looking at the prospect of yet another temporary extension.

With little hope of a budget deal being reached before the end of next week, House Republicans are preparing another short-term spending measure to give the House and Senate a chance to come to agreement over a broader plan to keep the government operating through Sept. 30.

Lawmakers and top aides on Thursday said stopgap legislation to be considered next week would most likely cover three weeks and include an additional $6 billion in cuts, possibly drawn from spending reductions offered by Democrats and the White House in earlier budget talks. The current two-week law expires next Friday and carries $4 billion in cuts.

The approach is, for all intents and purposes, exactly what we saw last week — Republicans believe it’s paramount to cut on a prorated basis, following the standards set by their campaign document from last year, but know Dems won’t agree to the kinds of cuts the GOP wants. As a result, these $6 billion in cuts, like the previous $4 billion in cuts, are likely to include stuff Democrats want to cut anyway, thus making everyone happy — Republicans get their arbitrary targets met, and Dems avoid a shutdown by approving cuts they already requested.

There’s obviously a limit to how long this can go on, not just because the House GOP rank-and-file are antsy to actually do real damage, but also because Democrats just haven’t left that many more cuts lying around, waiting for Republicans to pick them up.

Still, the likelihood of a shutdown next week appears fairly remote, and the new deadline, if Congress approves this latest extension, would be April 8.