The Sept. 30 end of the federal fiscal year always entails a messy political battle of some kind in Congress.
Because Congress has once again failed to do its work by passing a budget on time, lawmakers must pass a series of continuing resolutions — CRs, in legislative parlance — that fund the government on a temporary basis.
The tea party-movement-influenced wing of the House GOP favors passing the CRs, but cutting any funds in those bills that would go toward paying for the Affordable Care Act — “Obamacare.” And the House did just that Friday, voting 230-189 (with two Democrats in favor) for just such a budget measure.
President Obama has already declared he will veto it if it is also passed by the Senate. That could result in a government shutdown, with each side blaming the other.
National polls and the GOP’s internal polling show that the public would generally blame Republicans for the shutdown, just like it did during the Clinton-Gingrich shutdown in the 1990s. It’s also likely that voters would take it out on Republicans in the next election.
Meantime, Republicans are hoping to use the funding vote as leverage in negotiations on the pending vote to raise the federal debt ceiling so the government can continue borrowing.
Failure to raise the debt limit means the government will begin defaulting on its debts, with potentially dire and unpredictable consequences. House Speaker John Boehner wants to tie the increase in the debt ceiling to tax reform, which would likely entail cuts in entitlements — anathema to most Democrats. They want more and higher taxes, not less.
Obama and Senate Democratic leaders say they will not negotiate over the debt limit. Obama will negotiate with Vladimir Putin about Syria, but not with Republican lawmakers. How’s that for presidential “leadership”? Obama and other top Democrats have begun making the argument that failing to raise the debt limit is unconstitutional and that Congress’ permission might not even be necessary.
Thus, at a sensitive time in the nation’s economic recovery, the administration could face economic chaos.
Younger House Republicans believe Obama would back down. However, with memories of his limp leadership during the Syrian debacle still fresh, the president probably would not.
Hence, a showdown that is likely to get very ugly.
The more Americans see people losing their health care coverage because of Obamacare and seeing their hours cut to part time from full time because of it, the less they are liking it.
Yet as tempting as it is to try and finally strangle Obamacare by defunding it, the current strategy is one with tremendous potential to blow up in Republicans’ faces. A Republican-driven government shutdown now risks a voter-driven “shutdown” at the polls for Republicans next year. And that’s a sure-fire way to ensure we’re stuck with Obamacare.