Government Shutdown Day 7: It wasn’t a very good weekend for my sports teams. The Kansas City Chiefs won and are 5-0. And, the Boston Bruins are 2-0. But, in car racing and baseball and college football, nothing came out as I wanted. And, my son crushed me this weekend in our NFL fantasy league, although I did win our NASCAR fantasy league this week. Ah, but there is always next weekend.
Such is not the case with the government shutdown. For, as John Boehner now quite famously quipped at a press conference on Friday in response to a question about the president saying he was “winning”, “This is not some damn game!” So, what happens next? What will break the stalemate?
It is quite clear now that this is no longer just about the shutdown and funding the government for the year, but it is also about the debt limit. The Treasury Department has been saying that by October 15th, they would have exhausted all borrowing authority and will be left with about $30 billion in cash. Independent analysts believe that the $30 billion buys them about another 7 to10 days. That gets you until October 22-26. But, those same analysts are pointing out that the shutdown has saved the government a noticeable amount of cash. The IRS, for example, is still collecting tax money, but is not paying out any refunds. Said experts think that the shutdown could buy another 8 to10 days and push the real debt limit date (meaning the point the Feds really run out of cash) until early November.
But, whether the date the government runs out of cash is October 15th or November 5th or somewhere in between, the date is fast approaching. Negotiations take time, as does collecting the necessary votes on the floor for passage. So, we have bypassed the period that a “clean CR” can be an option and are now looking at all of the factors in play with regard to funding the government and raising the debt limit. These include ObamaCare, obviously, but also the “Sequester”, which many Democrats hate as much as we hate ObamaCare. Entitlement reform will also be in play. Bending the long-term debt curve through entitlement reform, as a consequence of raising the debt limit, has always been a Republican priority. There are also a number of other miscellaneous Republican and Democrat legislative wishes that could become chips on the bargaining table, as well.
Does the inclusion of all of these factors make an agreement easier or harder? Conventional wisdom would say harder because there are so many things in play. But, I actually think it makes it easier. There are enough “chips” in play now that, in any agreement, each side can get something, give something and still hold the line on something else. And…..there will have to be a compromise and agreement at some point.
There is a still more difficult part, however – figuring out the channels of communication for an agreement. Speaker Boehner has been very clear that he wants to work something out. But, the president has drawn a “red line” by saying he will not negotiate at all on anything. As we saw in the Syrian matter, however, the president seems to have a habit of making statements that he cannot back up and should not have made. Harry Reid’s no-negotiation stance is just as hard, if not harder, than the president’s. Nancy Pelosi has never negotiated with Republicans on anything, although many other leading House Democrats have. Mitch McConnell is locked in a difficult re-election with challenges from the left and right, which limits his maneuvering room. But, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) are reportedly talking. And, Joe Biden is a Senate institutionalist with whom one can always negotiate – if the president will let him. There are a number of member to member conversations going on between Democrats and Republicans right now. However, these conversations are not occurring within either leadership camp or with the imprimatur of leadership, except for Paul Ryan/Patty Murray.
The Democratic leadership wants this to end with our side caving in to everything they want. That won’t happen. The expressions of unity in this fight and the overwhelming feeling that we are fighting for something very important here were evident in our Republican Conference meetings on Friday and in our voting on Saturday. The Democrats, it appears, believe what they see in the “mainstream media” (never a good idea) and think that they are on the side of the angels and that an increasing number of Republicans want to give in. Yes, there are a few Republicans who want to give in. But, they are small in number and not growing. There is also a greater number of Democrats who want to work something out with us. The “mainstream media” does not report on that because it does not comport with the White House talking points. And, I have never thought that angels take sides in such matters.
This shutdown will only end when Democratic leadership, at some level, agrees to negotiate and work on a solution with us. Now, that solution will need to include something to reduce the unsustainable future costs of entitlements, in my view, as well as a debt limit increase. Sooner or later (hopefully sooner), someone on their side will figure that out. I hope you enjoy reading these daily “laptop reports” because I think you will be getting them for another week at least and maybe much longer.
Until tomorrow, Drive fast and live free!