House Republicans to Senate Dems: Ten Hut!
-- Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., chairman of the Defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee talking to reporters
The pressure is on Senate Democrats to come up with a bill to keep the government open and provide full-year funding to the Pentagon.
Amid concerns that even a temporary government shutdown could cause an interruption in pay for soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, House Republicans approved a one-week emergency spending package that funds the Pentagon for the remaining 25 weeks of the fiscal year and cuts $12 billion from the projected $1.65 trillion deficit.
President Obama has threatened to veto the plan and Senate Democrats have denounced the measure’s cuts as excessive. But, as has been the case so often in this slow-motion car crash of a government shutdown, the Senate Democrats don’t have anything on offer.
Senate Democrats and Obama will be hard pressed to kill the House-passed troop funding plan if they don’t have anything to offer in its place. Democrats have based their objections on “riders” attached by Republicans to the bill that explicitly bar any money from being spent to import Guantanamo Bay detainees or to pay for abortions in the District of Columbia.
Those aren’t likely the real sticking points, though, since similar measures have passed with bipartisan support in the past. More likely, it is Democratic concerns that cutting another $12 billion leaves them down $23 billion in the cuts game.
Remember that the original Democratic position was no cuts and Republicans started at $61 billion in cuts – about a 4 percent reduction to this year’s deficit. Democrats have countered with a .52 percent reduction and then a 2 percent reduction. Republicans are eyeing a number closer to 2.5 percent for the cuts.
Accepting another $12 billion in cuts now would put the total so far at 1.3 percent of the deficit, a bad place for Democrats to be with full-year negotiations still underway.
Senate Democrats have gone to work on a plan to offer their own one-week stopgap plan, but midnight is drawing near. House Republicans put their plan together days in advance, and the Senate is notoriously slow.
Senate Republicans have a plan to force a vote on the troop-funding stopgap bill from the House, which Democratic leaders would have to be worried about. With pay interruptions ahead for troops in the field, many Senate Democrats would not like to have to cast a vote against such a measure.
This troop-funding conundrum is one of the greatest motivators for Senate Democrats to move quickly to embrace a final deal.
President Obama has cancelled a campaign trip to Indiana today to be on hand for negotiations and one gets the sense that when the logjam breaks, things will happen quickly.
That leaves one other question: would House Republicans approve a very short – one or two day – government funding measure if there was a deal in principle or would they be content to let the government idle while the process works itself out.
While a weekend shutdown would be inconvenient, running a short-term spending bill amid all of this would be difficult procedurally and politically.
So Close, and Yet So Far
“What I’ve said to the speaker and what I’ve said to Harry Reid is because the machinery of the shutdown is necessarily starting to move, I expect an answer in the morning. And my hope is, is that I’ll be able to announce to the American people sometime relatively early in the day that a shutdown has been averted…”
-- President Obama talking to reporters after another evening negotiation session at the White House
It looks likely that there will be government shutdown, but what kind?
Negotiators from the House, Senate and White House jousted until about 3 a.m. today and sources tell FOX News that the sides are closer together but still hung up on the exact size of the cuts.
A Republican aide close to the negotiations says that Democrats have dug in on their $33 billion figure while the GOP is looking for at least $40 billion. Also at issue here are the sources of the cuts. Republicans want to whack spending, while Democrats rely on accounting maneuvers for some of their overall reductions.
Republicans didn’t want to give Democrats credit for these accounting-based cuts but Democrats say they are legitimate and refuse to go more than halfway. They control two seats at the table while Republicans have only one so Democrats believe halfway should be enough.
The aide said that there has been more success in addressing House Republicans demands to eliminate funding for controversial programs, like the subsidy for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, and the president’s effort to enforce new global-warming regulations at the EPA.
But even if there is a deal for the rest of the year and even if it can get through the House and Senate and even if President Obama will sign it, the process itself might force a temporary shutdown over the weekend while lawmakers get the legislation drafted, processed and passed.
The federal government is very good at spending money, but it still takes a day or two to push through $1.05 trillion.
As for the situation in the House Republican caucus, the Republican leadership can afford to let about a quarter of their 241 members off the hook for the vote. There are enough moderate Democrats to still pass a $40 billion cuts package even if 60 Republicans refuse to sign off on the plan.
But more defections than that means Democrats would have Speaker John Boehner over a barrel and would start changing the terms once the bill landed in the Senate. If the terms start to get worse, Boehner would have to walk away from the deal and the government wouldn’t just procedurally shut down, but actually shut down.
That’s why the Planned Parenthood rider is so important. While many House Republicans will oppose a deal for being too paltry, others more amenable to compromise can’t vote for legislation that provides money to a group that performs abortions.
You can lose the fiscal hardliners, but not the fiscal hardliners and the pro-lifers.
Libya Lost in a Fog of Kinetic Military Action
"I suspect there might be some consideration of that. My personal view at this point would be that that's probably not the ideal circumstance, again for the regional reaction that having American boots on the ground would entail."
-- Gen. Carter Ham, commander of U.S. forces in the Libyan civil war, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee
Things are getting pretty wooly in Libya.
The rebel fighters are looking hapless and now NATO pilots have twice bombed the rebel forces by accident. Rebel leaders say the latest friendly fire caused their lines to break around the key oil port of Brega, but even without errant bombs, the rebels haven’t exactly been the Stonewall Brigade.
Gen. Carter Ham, who commanded the U.S. war effort in Libya until NATO took over, had some sobering testimony in the Senate on Thursday about the state of the war.
--All told, the war has already cost the U.S. about $650 million
--The U.S. is still regularly conducting attack missions on government troops despite promises that Americans would be removed to supply and support duties
--More ground troops may be necessary to prevent rebels from being thoroughly routed
While President Obama has vowed that there would be no U.S. ground troops deployed, the rebels now look like they will be on the short side of a stalemate. With little popular support for the movement outside of the tribes with which the uprising originated (and the Islamists who hope to drive their old foe Muammar al-Qaddafi from power), the hope for “organic” regime change is long gone.
Troops may be needed to preserve any rebel presence and would almost certainly be required to push Qaddafi out.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“If the government shuts down, this is what will happen: On Saturday, at 10:00 a.m. the cameras will be outside the gates of the National Zoo. The family having driven from Tuscaloosa is going to arrive. They are not going to be allowed in. A little kid carrying a teddy bear in his hand is going to start to cry and the whole country will say open the government again.”
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.