Story by Chris Good; illustrations by Alex Hoyt.
You are John Boehner, recently anointed Speaker of the House of Representatives.
You're knee-deep in budget negotiations with the White House, trying to find a way to fund the government and live up to your campaign promise -- either to cut $100 billion from last year's spending levels, or from President Obama's requested spending for 2011, depending on whom you ask.
For the past month, the government has been funded by temporary stopgap measures as you try to reach a deal with Senate Democrats and the White House on spending levels through September, when the fiscal year ends. Your Republican House coalition is growing restless: No more, they say. This is it.
Democrats control the U.S. Senate, and, given that they generally like to spend more money than you do, they're out to protect the programs that benefit their constituents, having promised to do so for decades.
In February you managed to pass, along with your Republican allies, a funding bill that cuts $61 billion from last year's spending. Tea partiers and fiscal hawks have supported it, though they want to see even more money shaved off. Senate Democrats and the White House have rejected this dictum out of hand.
The last stopgap measure runs out next Friday, April 8. If you don't reach a long-term deal, or another temporary fix, the federal government will shut down until you do.
As of Thursday, March 31, a compromise deal has been on the table: Vice President Joe Biden told reporters that everyone -- including you, implicitly -- is on board with a plan to cut $33 billion, well short of what the tea party wants. With help from moderate Democrats in your chamber, you could probably make this happen.
The tea party is putting the screws to you. For the last month, groups have accused you of going back on your promises. They won't be happy with the deal.
You have said there is no deal: Nothing is done, until everything is done. You've played it close to the vest.
- Tell the White House, No dice: We're cutting $61 billion, end of story (Go to Page 2)
- Agree to the $33 billion deal (Go to Page 11)
- Try to pass another temporary funding bill in the House, ensuring the government stays funded for another few weeks (Go to Page 12)
- Agree to Obama's FY 2011 funding request (Go to Page 10)
The White House weighs its position, consulting with Democrats in the Senate. A couple Democratic senators agree with you, but the leadership says, "We'll take our chances. Boehner doesn't know what he's doing." The White House agrees.
Friday comes. MSNBC and CNN flip out. Rachel Maddow calls you a callous tyrant, and James Carville's head nearly explodes.