Reid & Boehner Standoff Over Year-end Legislation as Government Shutdown Looms

We've seen this movie before...

Once again, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is locked in a high stakes game of legislative chicken with House Speaker John Boehner with a government shutdown looming by week's end.

The Nevada Dem, according to a senior Senate Democratic leadership aide, decided to lash payroll/jobless benefits to the giant catch-all spending bill known as the "omnibus" or "megabus."

Here's a look behind the scenes. The fight is so serious, Dems are already floating a short-term CR (possibly one week).

Reid decided Monday night to wage this fight, according to the senior aide, and is basically saying to the Speaker: I'll help with the votes on the spending bill IF you negotiate with Dems on a bill to extend both the payroll tax holiday and jobless benefits. No negotiating?  Then no Democratic votes in the House or Senate for the omni/megabus.

To be clear, Boehner needs Democratic votes, as he's sure to lose plenty of GOP support with the way the bill is currently written.  My House colleague, Chad Pergram, points out, "(Boehner has) lost anywhere from 50-plus Republicans on key issues earlier this year. But that figure BALLOONED to 101 Republicans on the minibus spending bill to fund three portions of government and avoid a government shutdown last month. 101 Republicans is a staggering figure for Boehner to lose. That's nearly 40 percent of his conference."

There are five provisions in the giant spending bill that Dems abhor (1 on policy; 4 are "riders") but are now putting on the table in this tit-for-tat: 1. CFTC - Republicans pull down funding to $205 million; OMB says that's too little to implement Dodd-Frank oversight. They are seeking $300m. 2. CUBA - Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., rider that tightens travel. 3. LIGHTBULBS - GOP rider bars the Dept. of Energy from spending money to carry out/encourage a shift to fluorescent bulbs from incandescent. 4. COAL - coal state supporters have a rider that waves a previous provision in an energy law, allowing the U.S. military, once again, to consider coal an "alternative energy" source. 5. DC ABORTION BAN

White House officials, according to the senior Democratic aide, are actively helping to solidify House Dem support for this plan.

Democrats are privately afraid Boehner will yank the spending bill and shove it to the right, adding provisions designed to garner right wing support; the House will then pass that bill and leave town.  But House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland told reporters earlier that he has assurances from Boehner that this will not happen.

The aide says that though Dems usually cave, they are ready to stand their ground in the face of a government shutdown. For now, Reid will not produce a Democratic payroll/jobless benefits catchall bill of his own, as previously planned, though the senior aide would not rule it out.

"The next 24 hours will be crucial," the aide said. Dems hope to find out what Boehner wants in this fight - his bottom line -- though Republicans are insisting, for now, that what's on the table now is their bottom line.

By Thursday in the Senate, if there is no broader deal, we could see Reid's alternative emerge, as well as the Boehner bill --- and we'll see a couple of "show votes." Beyond that, there appears to be no plan.

Ho, ho, ho...