We know what Republicans want out of a continuing resolution – deep cuts and policy changes that would block just about the entire Obama agenda of the first two years. Now we know precisely what Democrats want, at least in the short term. Harry Reid will introduce a “clean” continuing resolution next week that will freeze government funding at 2010 levels for 30 days. There’s this conceit in calling reductions from Obama’s 2011 budget request “cuts,” but that budget never got adopted. So, while Reid calls this $41 billion in cuts, it’s really just a freeze at the current levels. Here’s his full statement:
“Speaker Boehner should stop drawing lines in the sand, and come to the table to find a responsible path forward that cuts government spending while keeping our communities safe and our economy growing. It would be the height of irresponsibility to shut down the government without any negotiations, as Republicans are threatening to do. A shutdown could send our fragile economy back into a recession, and mean no Social Security checks for seniors, less funding for border security and no paychecks for our troops.
“To avoid a shutdown and give us time to negotiate a responsible path forward, I have asked Sen. Inouye, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to prepare a clean Continuing Resolution that I can bring to the floor next week. Since this bill is intended to fund vital services like Social Security, our military and border security, it should have no legislation or riders tied to it. This bill will include the $41 billion in budget cuts that Democrats and Republicans agreed to in December, and will keep the government running for 30 days while both sides can negotiate a common-sense, long-term solution. I have asked my chief of staff, David Krone, to begin negotiations with Speaker Boehner’s chief of staff, Barry Jackson, to craft a long-term continuing resolution that cuts waste and excess, while protecting the initiatives that keep us safe, put Americans back to work and keep our economy on the right track.
“It is time to drop the threats and ultimatums, and work together on a path forward. I am asking Speaker Boehner to simply take the threat of a government shutdown off the table, and work with us to negotiate a responsible, long-term solution.”
So, that’s the short-term fight. Democrats want a clean CR for one month while negotiations begin on a solution for the rest of the year. Republicans want cuts in any short-term CR. As I calculated earlier, the difference here for one month is something like $8-$9 billion. Those are the relatively infinitesimal stakes, relative to the whole of government, that could lead to a shutdown next week. [cont’d.]
Never fear, of course, because a government shutdown won’t be too bad, according to the next President of the United States, Mike Huckabee:
“It’s a very different environment this time. It think first of all, a lot of the things that were shut down were automated –like Social Security checks and Veterans checks — so it’s not going to be as draconian, if it does happen,” Huckabee said on CBS. “But there has to be at some point a reckoning with reality.”
“I think it could happen. And maybe it has to,” he added. “Because sometime, either now or later, the government’s going to shut down, either from bankruptcy in the future, or from a targeted effect to try to get someone’s attention that we’re overspending and not managing at all.”
Amazingly enough, Huckabee is overlooking the millions of federal workers who would either be furloughed or work without paychecks in the short term. Or the shutdown of federal buildings and parks. Or the inspections, grant programs, enforcement actions, litigation, and business advisory services that would have to stop. Or the fact that any changes to Social Security, veterans or any other benefits would not be able to get inputted. New enrollees would not get into the system. And it’s not clear that checks would be able to go out on those automated systems, either.
As I wrote last week after talking to someone who, unlike Huckabee, actually knows what a government shutdown looks like:
I talked to Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), who was in the Department of the Interior in 1995 the last time there was a shutdown. “We had to shut down every national park, and every property managed by the Bureau of Land Management,” he said. “The only people working were a few engineers to keep the pumps running. We had 80,000, 85,000 employees all stop. It took us months and months to get us back online and running. Major power plants like the Hoover Dam were seriously affected. It’s the ultimate chaos, and totally irresponsible.”
It’s impossible to minimize the effects of a government shutdown – they would be far-reaching. And with a little over a week to go, the battle lines have been drawn.