Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, makes a statement to the media on the budget negotiations on Friday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
For the past two days, we've been live-blogging the efforts to avert the first federal government shutdown since the mid-90s, which was set to start this weekend in the absence of a deal on the remaining fiscal year 2011 budget. Tips, comments, links? Send to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 8, 2011
11:29 pm. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tonight released a joint statement on the deal:
We have agreed to an historic amount of cuts for the remainder of this fiscal year, as well as a short-term bridge that will give us time to avoid a shutdown while we get that agreement through both houses and to the President. We will cut $78.5 billion below the President's 2011 budget proposal, and we have reached an agreement on the policy riders. In the meantime, we will pass a short-term resolution to keep the government running through Thursday. That short-term bridge will cut the first $2 billion of the total savings.
11:16 p.m. Sen. Harry Reid addressed the Senate and asked for unanimous consent on the bridge bill; there appeared to be no objections and the ayes had it. Before asking, Reid spoke briefly, saying, "It's been very hard to arrive at this point" and noting, "this is historic what we have done." The Congress will in the final bill cut 78 and a half billion dollars, he said, and the short-term resolution passed tonight will keep the government running through Friday.
11:08 p.m. President Obama, speaking from the Blue Room of the White House, pointed to the Washington Monument visible behind him through the window and said, "Tomorrow, I'm pleased to announce that the Washington Monument as well as the entire federal government will be open for business." But he also did not shy away from noting that the agreement reached amounted to "the largest annual spending cut in our history" and will be "painful" to some.
11:03 CBS's Mark Knoller reports that "leaders agree to separate votes on federal funding for Title X Planned Parenthood centers at a later time." So that's how that compromise has been resolved.
10:54 p.m. House Speaker John Boehner briefly addressed the press just now to announce, "I'm pleased that Senator Reid and I and the White House have come to an agreement that will cut spending and keep the government open." A vote on a short-term continuing resolution to allow time for the agreement to be put together in legislative form is expected later tonight, the speaker said.
10:49 p.m. Tweets Harry Reid's communications director:
We have an agreement. Details/statement coming soon.
10:39 p.m. CNN's Dana Bash says "there is a deal" and a handshake for somewhere in the ballpark of $38 to $39 billion in spending cuts. John King adds there's an agreement for a temporary spending measure to keep the government going through Thursday.
10:32 p.m. How excited is everyone that 11th hour negotiations are actually happening during the 11th hour?
10:10 p.m.The Hill's Bob Cusack points out that they'll need to pass a deal by unanimous consent to beat the shutdown deadline, meaning one objection from one lawmaker could mean a shutdown happens. Interesting facet to note: both Bachmann and Sen. Rand Paul have said they would not vote for this deal. This raises the question: if you don't object, but you vote "no," does that mean you really supported it?
9:59 p.m. House Republicans gathering for a meeting in the basement of the Capitol (via @jamiedupree): A GOP aide confirms the House Republican Conference is meeting now; presumably, to learn about whatever deal has been worked out.
9:54 p.m. TPM reports on the flickers of revelations that a three-day bridge deal might be in the works and concludes that this "suggests that Republicans in Congress have been alerted to the contours of the deal, but that the leadership in both chambers are still in the process of selling the deal to their members."
9:41 p.m. The Washington Post's Paul Kane reports that, according to aides from both parties, congressional leaders are reviewing a deal that's been reached, along the lines of what Politico reported earlier tonight: $40 billion in cuts. New development in this reporting: The deal wouldn't include defunding Planned Parenthood.
9:20 p.m.Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) will likely vote against whatever bill comes out of these discussions, whenever they end: Bachmann told Wolf Blitzer in a CNN interview that "I can't vote for a bill that doesn't defund Obamacare." As far as we know, that isn't on the table -- at all.
Bachmann has perhaps shifted her public image during this shutdown fight. While some have assumed that tea party House members have driven the hardest bargain in all of this, Bachmann has called for avoiding a shutdown and has seemed willing to compromise on Planned Parenthood funding to get a deal that involves more spending cuts.
8:03 p.m. Word on the street in D.C. is that a deal is in the offing. Over at Politico, some specifics: "The White House and congressional negotiators have reached agreement on controversial policy riders in the stalled government funding measure but still haven't cut a deal on the final spending numbers, according to GOP and Democratic sources."
6:16 p.m. The annual cherry blossom parade in the District will go on Saturday even if the federal government shuts down tonight, though it will take a slightly different route.
6:12 p.m. The Atlantic's Josh Green says we should stop blaming the shutdown on tea party-affiliated House freshmen: "Boehner raised a lot of money for a lot of freshman, Tea Party-affiliated and otherwise. And it looks like it's paying off, at least to an extent.... Many of them have stuck with him on the CRs, and they're generally not the ones who all fired up over Planned Parenthood. It's older, movement conservatives like Mike Pence who are gunning for a shutdown. Just worth noting."
6:06 p.m. The Washington Examiner's Timothy Carney makes an interesting point, tying the opposition Title X funding because the dollars go to Planned Parenthood to the fact that the group donates almost entirely to Democrats. While the amount of money the group expends is miniscule compared to that shelled out in the political sphere by other Democratic-leaning organizations, the fact that the group is a base Democratic group and is now being targeted of a piece with what's happened over the past few years to a number of other high-profile groups that are an important part of the Democratic coalition, such as public sector unions and, before that, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.
5:31 p.m. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) told Wolf Blitzer on CNN that negotiators had reached "agreement on a topline number." "I think the compromise has been reached," she said, emphasizing that Democrats have moved three-quarters of the way to the Republican ask, and that she was "hopeful" about the prospects of a deal. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), also on the show, said she thought there was no deal, but McCaskill suggested she might just be out of the loop.
5:23 p.m. Socially conservative former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has also raised his voice on behalf of making a deal. "Nobody's more pro-life than me. Nobody," Huckabee said in an appearance on the Fox Business Channel Friday. "But as much as I want to see Planned Parenthood defunded, as much as I want to see NPR lose their funding, the reality is the president and the Senate are never gonna go along with that. So win the deal you can win and live to fight another day."
4:45 p.m. House Tea Party Caucus leader Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who in March said that blocking funding for Planned Parenthood and "Obamacare" during budget negotiations was "where you draw the line in the sand and you have a hill where you die on," has thrown in the towel.
Her extended remarks were published at RedState. "It's time to face the facts. This is the 'small ball' battle that House leadership has chosen to engage. The current battle has devolved to an agenda that is almost too limited to warrant the kind of fighting that we're now seeing in Washington," she wrote late Friday afternoon. "I am ready for a big fight, the kind that will change the arc of history. And, I'm hoping that when it comes to issues like the debt ceiling, ObamaCare, and the 2012 budget, House Republicans will take the lead, draw a line in the sand and not back down from the fight," she concluded.
4:41 p.m. President Obama will remain in Washington over the weekend, instead of going to Williamsburg, Va., with his family as originally planned, the White House announced.
4:27 p.m. Also circulating a petition today, in addition to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The group is urging supporters to sign onto this letter:
3:22 p.m. Will there be a deal? Today's public debate is all about the politics in advance of a shutdown -- or an agreement. Should there be a deal, Democrats will have spent the past day rallying their base on core issues -- women's reproductive rights and health care -- potentially softening the blowback from agreeing to what could be as much as $38 billion in spending cuts (and certainly at least temporarily distracting attention from what's getting cut). And Republicans will have spent the same day being perceived as holding firm on a core issue for their base, to the sputtering outrage of Democrats. So from a political perspective, if a deal is struck, both sides will have benefited from the day's posturing.
Signs that a deal might yet be struck came in the form of ongoing staff negotiations and word that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor "told rank-and-file members during a closed-door meeting that if a funding deal is struck later on Friday, steps will be taken to keep the government from shutting down at midnight. He assured the lawmakers that there would be some type of 'bridge' put forth to allow the added time necessary to put the accord's details into legislative form. Lawmakers said they understood that to mean a short-term continuing resolution would be taken up -- perhaps for a day, the weekend, or as long as a week -- to allow time for bill drafters to finalize their work."
3:05 p.m. Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, issued a statement on the final day of budget negotiations today. "It's an outrage to shut down the government over an extreme proposal that would deny millions of women Pap tests, breast cancer screenings and birth control," she said. "Attacking Planned Parenthood's preventive health care hurts women, does not cut the deficit or fix the economy, and must be stopped."
2:47 p.m. ABC's Matthew Jaffee observes the bipartisan budget negotiations yesterday revealed an older kind of partisanship on display:
For a debate that could come down to women's reproductive rights, there's surprisingly few women in the room....
Leaders of the talks include President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker John Boehner and Reid. Other high-ranking officials in the room are White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, White House Legislative Affairs Director Rob Nabors, Office of Management and Budget director Jack Lew, Boehner's Chief of Staff Barry Jackson and Reid's top staffer David Krone -- that's right, all men.
The highest-ranking woman and vocal critic of the Planned Parenthood rider to the budget bill is the Senate's No. 4 Democrat, Patty Murray of Washington. But Murray has not been present in the top-level talks at the White House.
2:32 p.m. Not to get all provincial on you, dear reader, but people who have to live here in D.C. through a government shutdown are really concerned about this issue of the trash services coming to a halt. Here's what our mayor has to say:
We have funds 2 pay 4 trash collection but are prevented by the Congress from spending them b/c these services are deemed nonessential.
2:23 p.m. The Atlantic's Chris Good reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, at the news conference pictured below, had this to say:
The House leadership with the speaker have a very clear choice to make, and they don't have very much time to make that choice. They can keep their word and significantly cut the federal deficit, or they can shut down the federal government over women's access to health care. If that sounds ridiculous, it's because it is ridiculous. We all know the federal budget is very complex, but the choice here is a simple choice....
The choice, though, should be very easy. We use the word "rider" around here a lot lately, and now it's become plural: "riders." Let's remember what's really riding on the proposal that we have here. If the government shuts down over access to, for example, cancer screening, a fragile economy will really be hurt. Let's remember that, in five weeks, the GDP would drop one whole percent. Our intelligence and diplomatic efforts around the whole world would be significantly harmed, and in the process, the credibility of this great country of ours would be significantly harmed....
What if a family has worked and worked in the fragile economy and they're finally able to qualify for a home loan.? ... [FHA-backed loans] would stop.... Small businesses won't be able to get the loans that they need. Taxpayers wouldn't be able to get the tax refunds that they've earned....
This shutdown would have a tremendous impact on the state of Virginia. This is Virginia's big weekend. It's the cherry blossom festival. People plan to come here all year, and one of the things they want to do when they come here is take a walk down the mall....
All this to stop women from getting regular tests and preventive services that they need. 90 percent of that Title X money is for preventive health services. It is against the law that any money be spent for abortion, and they're not -- it's against the law....
The fact that Republicans have made this about women's health, or not about money or anything controversial, is really a sham.
2:09 p.m. The Senate Democratic Caucus is holding a news conference. The assembled (via @DanaBashCNN):
1:53 p.m. House Speaker John Boehner addressed the House Republican Conference midday today. "These discussions continue to be respectful, we continue to work together," he said. "Most of the policy issues have been dealt with and the big fight is over the spending." (NB: Most is not the same as all, and some believe the fight over the riders is just a gambit to press for even deeper spending cuts.)
"It's been a difficult several weeks," Boehner added. "Our intention has been to keep the government open. We have no interest in shutting down the government. That's why we sent the troop funding bill over to the Senate yesterday and attached to it was a seven day agreement to keep the government open while continuing to cut spending. And I'm hopeful the Senate will take this up.
"I'm also hopeful that we'll be able to come to some agreement. But we're not going to roll over and sell out the American people like it's been done time and time again here in Washington. When we say we're serious about cutting spending, we're damn serious about it."
1:36 p.m. The Libertarian Party of the United States is using the occasion of the budget battle to call for a "permanent government shutdown." Said Libertarian Party Executive Director Wes Benedict in a statement, "a permanent government shutdown would allow so many Americans to regain the blessings of liberty."
1:16 p.m. If you're thinking of selling your house during a government shutdown, think again: "Federal House Administration Mortgages, more commonly known as FHA loans, will be halted if there is a government shutdown. With FHA loans, borrowers still get the loan from a mortgage broker but the loan is insured by the federal government." Depending on how long a shutdown lasts, this could throw a real wrench into the housing market just at the start of the spring selling season as borrowers find it more difficult to qualify for financing.
1:08 p.m. National Journal's George Condon reports that White House employees have been "read the riot act" regarding using their work BlackBerries during a shutdown, and threatened with the two years in jail for which the Anti-Deficiency Act provides. "According to shutdown contingency plans, approximately 435 of 1,781 full-time equivalent employees in the executive branch would be allowed to work during a shutdown," he also reports. That's not that many people.
12:28 p.m. Vice President Biden was visibly upset during the budget talks at the White House last night, Reid told reporters this morning, according to a Roll Call report. "Vice President Biden, who sat very silent through this whole meeting, finally said -- and Joe doesn't get upset very often and he usually doesn't speak for short segments -- but last night he said: 'Well fine, let the American people decide this issue,'" Reid recounted.
12:06 p.m. A group of Democratic women senators is holding a news conference to offer their views on the budget stalemate. Reports Time's Katy Steinmetz :
Nine senators -- Washington's Maria Cantwell, California's Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, New York's Kirsten Gillibrand, North Carolina's Kay Hagan, Minnesota's Amy Klobuchar, Maryland's Barbara Mikulski, Murray and Michigan's Debbie Stabenow -- each took a turn at the microphone. They all seemed pretty angry -- on the verge of tears in one case -- to be there.
12:01 p.m. The Democratic campaign committees sense an opportunity in the shutdown threat. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has launched a petition, "100,000 Strong for Planned Parenthood," urging signatories to back the women's health and family planning group. "Republicans in Congress are so determined to deny women health care and family planning that they're willing to shut down the government just to advance their extreme social agenda," the petition states.
"We must send a strong message that if House Republicans put women's health at risk in order to pursue their radical ideological Tea Party agenda, there will be consequences," it continues. "If we reach 100,000 signers before MIDNIGHT TONIGHT, we'll send all of the names directly to Speaker Boehner."
Of course, by midnight the government will already be shut down if there's no deal.
Such petitions are a good way to get new email addresses from people outraged by a major news story -- addresses that can later be sent fundraising solicitations. And, in fact, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has already launched such a solicitation, using the same theme.
"Quick shutdown update - talks went until 3 a.m. with no agreement," their email said. "The issue Republicans refuse to budge on: defunding women's healthcare. Yesterday, Sen. Reid said 'the only thing holding up an agreement is ideology.' Republicans are so against funding women's healthcare that they would shut down the federal government over it." After that, the ask.
11:15 a.m. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, speaking on the Senate floor just now, was very clear in his defense of Title X funding: "Republicans want to shut down our nation's government because they want to make it harder for women to get the health services they need. And, by the way Title X does not include abortion. It is illegal to use federal funds for abortion, so anyone who says this debate is about abortion isn't being truthful. Republicans want to shut down the government because they think there's nothing more important than preventing women from getting cancer screenings" and other health services provided for by Title X. Republicans have "only a few hours left to look in the mirror and snap out of it," he said.
"We have an agreement on cuts in savings... I was there in the White House last night...but now the tea party, among others...is trying to move its extreme social agenda, issues that have nothing to do with the federal government," he said.
"As a legislator, I'm very frustrated. As an American, I'm appalled, and as husband, a father, and a grandfather, I'm personally offended," he said. (Read his full remarks.)
11:01 a.m. House Speaker John Boehner made a very short statement: "A bill that fails to include real spending cuts will hurt job growth and show the country that Washington's not serious," he said.
In terms of framing, he sought again to turn the tide of the debate from social issues, returning to Thursday's argument about Democrats refusing to approve a bill to fund the Defense Department through September, while leaving the rest of the budgetary issues unresolved for now. "I think the Senate should follow the House's lead and pass the troop funding bill today, and I also believe the president should sign the troop funding bill. This is the responsible thing to do," he said.
10:54 a.m. Earlier this morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid briefed reporters at the Capitol. "This all deals with women's health. Everything has been resolved. Everything," he said, according to CBS News. "The issue does not deal with the number. The debate has nothing to do with the number. It has everything to do with women's health. That is the only issue that was left undone when we left the White House last night."
"The Republicans can say whatever they want," he said.
Reid also said that Democrats were willing to accept up to $38 billion in cuts -- a number $5 billion higher than under discussion last week.(See CBS video of Reid at the Capitol.)
10:45 a.m. House Speaker John Boehner is expected to address the press momentarily. So far this morning, his office has pushed back forcefully against the building narrative that the federal government might be shut down in a dispute over social issues. "The reason no agreement has been reached in bipartisan budget talks is over the need for real, substantial spending cuts. The American people want to cut spending to help the private sector create jobs - and the Democrats who run Washington don't. That's why they didn't propose a budget last year, which is why we're where we are right now," said a blog item the Speaker's office sent out.
10:36 a.m. Jennifer Agiesta, deputy polling director for The Associated Press, points out a narrow majority back keeping funding for Planned Parenthood when asked. A late February Quinnipiac University poll found voters opposed cutting federal funding for Planned Parenthood by 53 - 43 percent. Meanwhile, an early March WSJ/NBC poll found that women were among those most concerned about excessive cuts: "Among those most fearing spending cuts were younger voters, independents, seniors and suburban women--groups that include many swing voters in national elections, who potentially could turn against the GOP."
9:43 a.m. Now come the efforts to frame what the debate is really about. It is one of GFR's iron laws of politics that few members of the general public fully understand complicated budgetary matters, but everyone understands sex. And so any story that moves from policy to sex (see: Clinton, Bill) immediately becomes more interesting and comprehensible. The budget debate is now, according to liberal writers, one about sexual politics, thanks to Republican -- and to be fair, Democratic -- intransigence on the issue of federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Here's how some are framing it:
Kevin Drum: "How Condoms Are Shutting Down the Government"
Ryan Grim: "The United States government is on the verge of shutting down over a dispute about subsidized pap smears, according to sources familiar with the budget negotiations."
Republicans, for their part, insist the debate is still about cuts in domestic discretionary programs.
"While nothing will be decided until everything is decided, the largest issue is still spending cuts," said House Speaker John Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement Friday morning. "The American people want to cut spending to help the private sector create jobs - and the Democrats that run Washington don't."
8:31 a.m. No deal was reached overnight.
April 7, 2011
11:13 p.m. We'll be back with continuous updates in the morning.
10:08 p.m. The president had been expected to travel to Indiana Friday for an energy event; that trip has now been postponed.
10:02 p.m. The New York Times' Jennifer Steinhauer explores the social issue sticking points in greater detail:
"We've been close on the cuts for days," Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate majority leader, said Thursday, adding, "The only things -- I repeat, the only things -- holding up an agreement are two of their so-called social issues: women's health and clean air."
Speaker John A. Boehner begged to differ, saying that Democrats and Republicans were far apart in every way. After a meeting on Thursday at the White House, Mr. Boehner said, "When I see what the White House has to offer today, it's really just more of the same."
Why are the policy riders such an issue?
the debate over these measures is different in a few significant ways. The House Republican proposals are numerous and sweeping, and would essentially rewrite broad areas of policy. And they are attached to a document that is meant not simply to pay for government services, but avoid a shutdown, which raises the stakes of the debate considerably.
Further, it is a difficult proposition to come to an accord over social issues that have been publicly debated for decades in a divided government with each side under pressure from its ideological wing.
9:43 p.m. What are the outstanding issues? "It's all down to women's health," a Reid spokesman said.
9:40 p.m. Right before Obama spoke, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner issued joint statement on the evening's negotiations at the White House. "We have narrowed the issues, however, we have not yet reached an agreement. We will continue to work through the night to attempt to resolve our remaining differences," they said.
9:38 p.m. No deal yet. "We made some additional progress this evening," President Obama said of the latest round of negotiations. "We made some progress today." Outstanding "differences have been narrowed" and the respective staffs of those involved in the negotiations are "going to be working around the clock," he said. However, there were "still issues outstanding" and "they are difficult issues," so the president was "not ready" to express "wild optimism."
"I expect an answer in the morning," he said, noting he was hoping a deal would be reached overnight. He did not take questions. (Full transcript of his remarks.)
9:28 p.m. The president's meeting with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has come to an end and the president is expected to deliver remarks on the outcome of their deliberations shortly.
9:22 p.m. While Bachmann may now hope to avoid a government shutdown, she was hardly so conciliatory a month ago when the House voted on the continuing resolution to keep the government funded. Reported the Minnesota Independent on March 2:
In a webinar with anti-abortion rights activists Tuesday evening, Rep. Michele Bachmann said that she voted against the continuing resolution aimed at avoiding a government shutdown because it didn't defund Planned Parenthood and "Obamacare." She called abortion the "watershed issue of our time" and said she's prepared to fight "eyeball-to-eyeball" to defund Planned Parenthood in the next continuing resolution in two weeks....
"The next time we vote on the continuing resolution we have to insist on defunding 'Obamacare' and defunding Planned Parenthood," she said. "My opinion is there is a point where you draw the line in the sand and you have a hill where you die on. I think this is our issue."
8:41 p.m. Contrary to any impressions that tea partiers want a government shutdown, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), one of the movement's biggest political stars, said tonight that she wants to avoid one and sounded quite supportive of Speaker John Boehner as he negotiates with Democrats. In an interview with Chris Matthews earlier tonight, Tea Party Patriots co-chair Mark Meckler said he's not too interested in policy riders -- defunding Planned Parenthood and EPA climate regulations -- and that the total spending number is what he's concerned with.
8:16 p.m. We've got two separate spending debates going on in Washington right now (one concerning the next six months, and one concerning 2012 and beyond), and they are not intersecting in the shutdown negotiations. A John Boehner spokesman says longer-term spending issues are not being discussed as Boehner, the Senate, and the White House work on a deal to keep the government funded. Which means future taxes or entitlement reforms are not in play as bargaining chips, although they're being debated heavily after the release of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's 2012 budget plan.
7:42 p.m. If you want to know what the bettors are predicting, the Intrade.com gambling/trading market shows a 64 percent chance of a shutdown by June 30. (Intrade isn't taking bets on a shutdown happening tomorrow, which presumably means it set up its shutdown markets before the last continuing resolution). Important factor to note: the market was predicting a 65 percent chance an hour ago.
Intrade predictions equate easily to a percent-chance figure because traders purchase bets for, or against, a particular outcome at values between $1 and $10. The overall betting pattern renders a market-consensus percent-chance prediction.
7:02 p.m. With Republicans reportedly pressing for no Planned Parenthood funding to be included in the six-month funding plan being negotiated at the White House, the group has turned to Scarlett Johansson for some down-to-the wire advocacy. Planned Parenthood just sent out this video:
6:57 p.m. The evening meeting between President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been delayed by one hour, CNN reports. Around 2:30 p.m., Boehner and Reid left the White House and announced negotiators would continue talking throughout the afternoon. Boehner and Reid were to return to the White House at 7 p.m.; CNN reports that the meeting has been pushed back until 8 p.m.
6:32 p.m. National Journal's latest Insiders Poll shows both Republican and Democratic political operatives predicting a government shutdown. Among 79 Republican insiders and 78 Democratic insiders, 51 percent total put the odds of a shutdown at greater than 7 out of 10. Republicans (53 percent) were slightly more confident that a shutdown will occur than Democrats (49 percent).
6:20 p.m. Ed O'Keefe over at the Washington Post has the official memo from Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob J. Lew to agency heads giving them instructions on how to prepare to shut their departments down, if it comes to that.
5:18 p.m. Worth a read today: a backgrounder on The Anti-Deficiency Act, which bars federal personnel who have been furloughed from working in the absence of an appropriation to pay them, i.e. a federal government shutdown.
4:25 p.m. A public Facebook event invitation has been created encouraging D.C. residents experiencing an outage in trash collection services -- as will occur in the event of a government shutdown, thanks to the peculiar way D.C. is funded -- to take their trash to House Speaker John Boehner's residence instead, and dump it out front. Called "If Boehner shuts down the government I am taking my trash to his house," the group already has 2,152 people saying they will attend, starting at noon on Saturday. The Washington City Paper adds a list of other places to dump trash in the event of "taxation without sanitation."
4:18 p.m. Hill staffers who are furloughed during a
government shutdown "lapse in appropriations" will themselves be expected to lapse into technological oblivion, reports NextGov.com:
Capitol Hill staffers won't be allowed to use government-issued BlackBerrys, laptops or cellphones, the Committee on House Administration said in 10 pages of guidance issued as Republicans and Democrats remain deadlocked over how much to cut the 2011 federal budget.
Furloughed congressional staffers cannot perform official duties, or even volunteer to work for free. That means no phone calls and no email messages, according to the guidance.
"To ensure compliance with this rule, employing offices may require furloughed employees to turn in their BlackBerrys, laptops and cellphones and should require furloughed employees to set an 'out of office' message on their email accounts," stated the guidance signed by Rep. Daniel Lundgren, R-Calif.
4:02 p.m.It's somewhat inaccurate to call the debate over the budget at present just a spending debate, as one major remaining sticking point consists of traditional GOP culture war issues. "Policy riders" dealing with family planning funding and the environment are also part of the picture and a subject of disagreement. Senate Democrats and the White House say they'll oppose a bill that contains the riders. But Republicans point out Democrats have supported such policy riders in the past. Reports Politico:
"Policy restrictions are a routine part of spending bills. Senate Democratic Leaders - and President Obama - have supported hundreds, if not thousands of them, including on CRs," Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said in reference to a "continuing resolution" -- the vehicle political leaders are using as they try to negotiate a deal to keep the government running through the end of September.
But Democrats insist that not all riders are created equal.
"There is a difference between including riders on a bill when they are supported by a majority of the Senate and just need a vehicle and including riders on a bill because a minority is trying to ram through something that would not have support on its own," the senior Democratic aide countered. "Here, keeping the government funded should be enough."
While Republicans are a minority in the Senate, they hold power in the House. It's not clear which riders would have majority support in the Senate because there has been no opportunity for the upper chamber to vote on them.
The issue here is not the fact of the riders, but what they seek to accomplish.
The Senate defines a rider as "a nongermane amendment to a bill or an amendment to an appropriation bill that changes the permanent law governing a program funded by the bill."
House GOP conference likely to meet again this afternoon on budget talks, chairman Jeb Hensarling says
3:25 p.m. CBS's Mark Knoller observes that there some "Unfortunate timing if there's a Govt shutdown," as the president today proclaimed next week National Volunteer Week.
3:22 p.m. National Journal's Marc Ambinder lays out the dynamics on the Republican side of the debate:
There are at least four factions within the House Republican Conference--though they overlap--against the bill as is. One, mainly the appropriators, is concerned with the level and type of defense spending. The second is concerned with the size of the cuts. They want Democrats to come much closer to the $62 billion in cuts that they've set. The third faction will accept fewer cuts in exchange for a rider turning over family-planning funding to states (and thus taking it away from Planned Parenthood). And the fourth is most concerned about reining in the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate carbon emissions. From the standpoint of votes, these four factions merge into two: those who want more cuts and those who are concerned about the strength of the riders. The idea being: the lower the number of cuts, the tougher the riders, or the softer the riders, the higher the number.
Boehner worries that if he assents to a bill that does not pull a majority of Republicans on board, he'll lose his job, or his credibility, or his stature. It's in his interest to hold out until the very end.
3:00 p.m. Jeffrey Zients, a deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, warned Thursday that it would cost money to shut the government down and start it back up again. "When you have to shut something down, that costs money, and ramping something back up costs money," Zients told reporters at the White House. "That's built into contracts. It's built into a lot of different cost structures in the federal government."
"If there is a shutdown, it would have very real effects on the services that American people rely on, as well as on the economy as a whole," he said.
2:46 p.m. The Atlantic's Chris Good reports: House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid emerged from a meeting with President Obama at the White House around 2:37 p.m. with no deal having been reached. They've agreed to convene staff negotiations again at 3 p.m., with the leaders reconvening at 7 p.m.
Below, their comments from a press conference given just after the meeting:
Boehner: We continue to have productive conversations. You should all know they're polite, they're to the point, but there is no agreement on the number, there is no agreement on the policy issues that are contained with this. We continue to work toward an agreement ... I sincerely believe that we can get to an agreement, but we are not there yet. I did ask the president to sign the stopgap measure that we passed ... and I did explain to the president my disappointment that he suggested he would veto that bill. Our goal is to reduce spending to lead to job creation in America.
Reid: Well, we'll see you back here at 7 o'clock. The negotiators agree to start again at 3 o'clock today to see if we can work through these issues. We had a frank discussion. We had the necessary parties there to move toward a finish line. I'm disappointed we haven't been able to get something done at this point, but I am pleased we are ... getting there ... Security operations in this country [will shut down], and on and on with the things that will really be detrimental ... just a shutdown, of no matter how long it is, will be a .02 percent drop in our domestic product. So we are going to continue to work to get this done. It is not easy to do, but it is doable ... If not, we'll of course have to look forward to a bad day tomorrow, which is a government shutdown.
2:38 p.m. One factor to consider as you think about which office-holders will benefit and which will be harmed by a shutdown is the standing of the various political actors at the outset. A new survey out from the Pew Research Center shows Obama remains much more popular than members of Congress, Republican or Democrat.
With the showdown on federal spending looming, Obama's job rating continues to be much higher than those of Republican or Democratic leaders in Congress. Just 30% approve of the job that Republican leaders in Congress are doing while twice as many (61%) disapprove. The job rating for Democratic congressional leaders is equally dismal (31% approve, 60% disapprove).
However, while Obama continues to attract overwhelming support from the Democratic base, many Democrats -- particularly liberals -- say he should challenge congressional Republicans more often. Among the general public, 29% say he should go along with Republicans more often, 27% say he should challenge them more often, and 34% say he is handling this about right.
2:35 p.m. The GOP one week stopgap funding bill, which would also fund the Defense Department through September, just passed the House; the White House has promised to veto it, should it ever get to the president's desk. Roll Call reports:
Thanks to the inclusion of a rider that bars the District of Columbia from using local revenues for abortion services, the House measure is unlikely to make it out of the Senate unchanged. President Barack Obama has also issued a veto threat against the bill. The bill, agreed to by a largely partisan 247-181 vote, would also cut discretionary spending by $12 billion.
2:25 p.m. The Atlantic's Dan Indiviglio explores the potential economic fall-out of a government shutdown.