Shutdown Update

I’m on record as being a pessimist about the chances of getting through fiscal year 2012 appropriations without at the very least another round of brinkmanship with a government shutdown a real possibility. The next step at this point is a temporary extension for appropriations, which run out at the end of the month. The question has been whether House Republicans will propose a “clean” extension or not. That means two things: total spending that sticks to the year-long totals agreed to in the debt limit deal, and not festooning it with policy riders that the president would object to.

Politico’s David Rogers had an update on that Monday, and the answer was: maybe. On spending totals, he reported that Speaker Boehner was floating a plan to come in just below the debt limit deal, but it appears that there’s little GOP appetite to fight a battle on that group. On riders, Rogers says that the temporary extension (which figures to be for about two months) will “relatively clean,” delaying the real battle for the year-long appropriations bill that would then come due in November. What does “relatively clean” mean? I don’t know! Is the idea that Republicans would try to sprinkle a few relatively small and relatively popular riders into the two-month CR and hope that the Senate and the president would just let them through?

Meanwhile, we don’t really know that the House can pass even the short-term CR that Boehner and Eric Cantor seems to want. Are Democrats going to support it? How many Tea Partiers intend to vote against pretty much any appropriations bill? How many will vote against a CR that doesn’t eliminate ACA, the EPA, and Planned Parenthood? Do Boehner and Cantor really want to avoid a shutdown (and believe they can do it), or have they just altered their p.r. strategy, downplaying it until it happens?

In other words, the same questions I’ve had all along. Perhaps there’s not much reporters can do yet to answer them, but I really don’t see anything that’s changed that would indicate we’re not heading for plenty of trouble.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.