President Barack Obama, Senator Harry Reid and Speaker of the House John Boehner were all optimism and compromise as they walked out of an emergency budget conference last night, but they still didn't make a deal.
The deadline for Congress to pass a federal budget before money stops flowing and the government shuts down is tomorrow. While Democrats and Republicans have come to within $10 billion of each other (that's of a nearly $4 trillion total budget), neither side wants to be the one that gives in. As the New York Times points out, this is a big deal, personally, for both Obama and Boehner, both of whom face challenges inside their parties.
The outcome will help determine whether Mr. Boehner is leading his party or following the demands of the Tea Party movement. For Mr. Obama, it is the biggest test yet of whether he can reposition himself as a pragmatic leader who can recapture the political center and keep liberals sufficiently energized to help him win re-election.
But the standoff is making neither look good, as many have pointed out. Jon Stewart on Tuesday vocalized what a lot of people think about the wearisome conflict: "So Democrats want $30 billion in cuts and republicans want $60 billion. Hmm, what can we do? Well, rather than both sides going, 'how about 45?' we're going to shut the government down."
By Wednesday night the gap between how much each side wants to cut had shrunk to $7 billion ($33 billion for the Democrats and $40 billion for the republicans), according to the Times. So will we see a compromise today?
Politico says yes, on the grounds that while neither Boehner, Obama nor Reed wants to budge on the budget, being seen as the guy who forced the shut down would be even more damaging, politically. "They can’t be absolutely, positively certain the other guy will get the blame if it happens. And that simple political fact might be the one thing left that can head off a prolonged shutdown."