Updated at 8:50 and 11 am and 3:40 pm EDT
With Sam Kussin-Shoptaw reporting from the Senate
Pigs may not fly, but planes will.
That’s if the federal government is forced to “shut down” as a result of the brinkmanship over a budget needed to carry operations past Sept. 30, which Congress now has five working days — including the weekend — to produce.
FBI agents will investigate crimes, mail will be delivered, Social Security checks and Medicare payments will go out and U.S. military personnel will still report to duty, as Bloomberg’s Jim Snyder, Danielle Ivory and Kathleen Miller report today. That camping trip to Yosemite, however, may be be postponed — as national parks probably close.
“The effects of a government shutdown may not be immediately apparent to most Americans should Congress fail to fund the government by Oct. 1. In a protracted shutdown, though, the effects could prove to be far-reaching,” they report.
“There will be a noticeable lack of people to do the things that most people take for granted, and will be quite irritating if they don’t happen,” says Scott Lilly, a budget specialist at the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based group that promotes progressive political ideas.
Irritations may include unanswered tax filing questions, says Lilly, a former Democratic aide to the House Appropriations Committee. While Social Security checks will be issued, new claims and address changes might not get processed, he says.
Jobs deemed “excepted” from the shutdown, because they help protect life and property, or are funded by programs not subject to annual appropriations, would go on.
If Congress fails to agree on a stopgap budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, President Barack Obama will have to issue an order determining what federal jobs are critical, Lilly says. In the past, air traffic controllers have been retained, while passport offices have been closed. Mail delivery, funded by the sale of postage, would continue under a shutdown.
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The Senate could vote as soon as Friday on its spending plan, which will be sent to the House, where Republican leaders have insisted on a budget that “defunds” Obama’s signature health-care law. Their differences over that threaten a stalemate in five days.
The House’s Republicans are meeting this morning to frame their strategy for the budget that comes back from the Senate minus an Obama-care ban.
Today’s GOP conf mtg is impt-can Boehner very subtly convince members to move twd eventually passing a clean-ish CR?
— Robert Costa (@robertcostaNRO) September 26, 2013
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Something else happens on Oct. 1, regardless of what Congress does.
President Barack Obama, appearing at a college campus in Maryland this morning, was taking the debate back to its roots.
“In the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one should go broke just because they get sick,” Obama said. If nothing was done about the health-care system, he said, it would “keep driving up our deficits… it would keep hurting our families.” He said: “That’s why we took on a broken health care system… That’s why we are implementing it. That’s why we are going to see it through. The Affordable Care Act is here.”
It passed both houses of Congress in 2010, he signed it into law, he said, and “the Supreme Court ruled it constitutional.”
“Republicans have now voted 40 times to undermine or repeal it. Their candidate for president ran on a platform to repeal it,” he said. “Five days from now, five days from now, on Oct. 1, millions of Americans who don’t have health insurance because they’ve been priced out of the market, or they’ve been denied it because of a pre-existing condition, they finally will be able to buy affordable insurance.”
”The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.”
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The Republicans, Obama told a sympathetic and cheering college crowd at Prince George’s Community College, “are trying to poison Obama-care and then claim it’s sick.”
“If it actually works,” he said, “they’ll look pretty bad.”
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Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus knows a thing or two about the movie Hunger Games.
The Montana Democrat took to the Senate floor this afternoon to speak out against the House-passed continuing budget resolution.
In particular, Baucus outlined his opposition to a provision that authorizes the secretary of the Treasury to prioritize payments in lieu of a default on the national debt. The legislation would require the secretary to first pay those bondholders interest on debt and those receiving Social Security retirement benefits.
After that initial guidance Baucus warns, “The Treasury secretary himself decides what obligations should be paid or not paid… In short the power to pick and choose what bills to pay.”
The Montana Democrat painted a brutal picture of default for the chamber, one in which Medicare beneficiaries fight disabled vets. A world where, “the chaos that would ensue would be unimaginable.”
This post-default world is “compared to the movie Hunger Games… Where individuals are out scrapping trying to save their own lives, killing other people to save their own lives.”
Baucus, ever the movie buff, went on to say: “The sequel to Hunger Games is not out until November, but we can now see the coming attractions in the House CR with the prioritization provisions.”
The first part of the quote was pretty catchy, anyway.
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Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has “done a disservice” to the Republican Party in taking the stand he has taken against “Obama-care” in the spending bill, says Republican Rep. Peter King of New York, who has accused Cruz of “legislative terrorism.” Cruz held the Senate floor for nearly 20 hours with a demand that his party hold firm against the president, then voted with the rest of the Senate to advance its budget to debate. In the process, he oddly equated Obama-care with “Green Eggs and Ham” — Dr. Seuss’s fable of someone unwilling to try something new, then discovering he likes it.
Asked, on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” today if Cruz is a “fraud,” King said: “Yes, he is .”
So what are the Republicans going to do, he was asked.
“I don’t want to get in John Boehner’s way, Eric Cantor’s way,” King said. His own “preference” is to move on with the continuing budget resolution and then get to the next debate about raising the nation’s debt limit – sans shutdown.
“We cannot allow the government to shut down” because of the budget, King said.
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House Speaker John Boehner helped start the clock running on a government shutdown.
The speaker’s choice — between keeping the government running and continuing to fight the nation’s three-year-old health-care law — has implications for the 2014 congressional elections and, potentially, his future, Bloomberg’s Michael C. Bender reports.
“The Ohio Republican has a tough decision to make,” Bender reports. “He can keep up the fight against Obama-care when the Senate sends back a spending bill in coming days, making a shutdown more likely. Or, he can fund the government with the help of Democratic votes, and risk alienating a band of Republican newcomers who’ve already tried once to oust him as speaker.”
“This is coming back and John Boehner is going to have to make the decision again,” says Peter Wehner, head of former President George W. Bush’s Office of Strategic Initiatives. “He’s in a situation where he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.”
Boehner has five days to choose before a shutdown.
The House probably won’t get back the Senate bill with health-law defunding stripped out until just days before government spending authority runs out Sept. 30. Changing the proposal and sending it back to the Senate increases the chance of shutdown. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, says any House amendments at that point would be a “sure-fire way to shut down the government.”