Countdown to Shutdown: 3 Days

Photograph by Evan Vucci/AP Photo

President Barack Obama made a public appeal to House Republicans to avert a government shutdown in an appearance in the press briefing room of the White House on Sept. 27, 2013. Photo by Evan Vucci / Associated Press

Updated at 11:40 am, 12, 2:11 and 5:50 pm EDT

This is what a stalemate looks like.

This is how shutdowns happen.

House Speaker John Boehner, after convening his party’s conference today, announced that the Republican-run House will proceed with a temporary spending plan that delays the president’s signature health-care law for a year.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has reiterated that the Democrat-led Senate “is going to accept nothing that relates to Obama-care.”

Should the House send the Senate this bill as planned, and should the Senate reject it as promised, the prospect for a shutdown of non-essential government services on Oct. 1 appears all but certain.

* * *

The Senate will blame the House. The House will blame the Senate.

The public, polls suggest, will blame them all — yet mostly the Republicans.

Forty-four percent of Americans say they would blame the Republicans in Congress more if there is a partial shutdown of the federal government, while fewer – 35 percent – would place more of the blame on Obama and the Democrats in Congress, a CBS/New York Times poll finds.

The blame is split a little more evenly in a Pew Research Center poll: “About as many say they would blame the Republicans (39 percent) for such a standoff as say they would blame Obama (36 percent), with 17 percent volunteering that both would be equally to blame.”

“Republicans have tried and failed to defund or delay the health care law more than 40 times, and they know this demand is reckless and irresponsible,” White House spokesman Jay Carney, said in a statement issued today. “Any member of the Republican Party who votes for this bill is voting for a shutdown.”

* * *

Boehner, an Ohio Republican, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California and Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state released a joint statement after the conference met today:

“The American people don’t want a government shutdown and they don’t want ObamaCare. That’s why later today, the House will vote on two amendments to the Senate-passed continuing resolution that will keep the government open and stop as much of the president’s health care law as possible.”

“The first amendment delays the president’s health care law by one year. And the second permanently repeals ObamaCare’s medical device tax that is sending jobs overseas. Both of these amendments will change the date of the Senate CR to December 15th. We will also vote on a measure that ensures our troops get paid, no matter what.”

“We will do our job and send this bill over, and then it’s up to the Senate to pass it and stop a government shutdown.”

* * *

“Do not burn down the house.”

— President Barack Obama’s warning to Republican House members yesterday.

The president issued this double-barreled warning about a federal budget deadline nearing at midnight Sept. 30, with a shutdown of non-essential government services looming if no agreement is reached, as the House headed into this weekend of deliberations. Their next challenge is the $16.7-trillion debt limit that will be reached sometime in late October.

The House’s Republicans, the president maintained in an appearance at the White House yesterday, are threatening a shutdown as a means of “appeasing the Tea Party.”

Boehner’s Republican conference met today at noon to chart its strategy for the stopgap spending bill that the Senate has sent back to the House — on a 54-44 vote — stripping out the Republicans’ demand to “defund” the president’s health-care law, the Affordable Care Act widely known as “Obama-care.”

They have three working days, including this weekend, to avert an Oct. 1 shutdown. Obama-care, however, will go on as planned, the president noted — as public enrollment in health-care exchanges for people seeking insurance also opens on Oct. 1.

“That’s a done deal,” the president said of his hard-fought health-care program.

* * *
His message to Republicans this morning, in his weekly radio and Internet address:

It’s time “to knock it off.”

* * *

Boehner has his own take on this standoff: Americans are interested in neither a government shutdown nor complying with the rules of Obama-care:

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It’s not only the White House, however, that isn’t negotiating over Obama-care.


* * *

Rodgers delivered her party’s weekly address today.

The Washington Republican says lawmakers have a “golden opportunity” to fix problems coming out of Washington, but not without cooperation.

“By an overwhelming margin, Americans believe any debt ceiling increase should be coupled with solutions that help solve our debt and grow our economy,” Rodgers says. “Republicans have put forward a plan that does just that.”

* * *

Time to deal, or time to buy time?

As the government edged closer to a partial shutdown, House Republicans prepared to lob another anti-Obamacare volley at Senate Democrats who vow they won’t accept it, Bloomberg’s Roxana Tiron, Richard Rubin and Michael C. Bender reported.

“The main options include a one-year delay in provisions of the health law such as the mandate that individuals buy health insurance and several tax increases,” Tiron, Rubin and Bender reported, their predictions spot on. “Senate Democrats, who passed a measure yesterday to keep the government open through Nov. 15, said they won’t accept conditions, warning that the House’s refusal to adopt a no-strings-attached spending bill will force agencies to close.”

“This is the only legislation that can avert a government shutdown,” said Reid, a Nevada Democrat, before the chamber adjourned for the weekend. “House Republicans should think long and hard about what’s at stake and who would be hurt by a government shutdown.”

Budget brinkmanship has become a routine in Washington, the story notes, particularly since Republicans gained control of the House in the 2010 election. A last-minute deal before midnight Sept. 30 is still possible, even with both sides seemingly dug into opposing positions.

* * *

The mere threat of a shutdown already is having effects.

“Concerns that the budget impasse will hurt economic growth helped push the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to its first weekly decline since August,” Tiron, Rubin and Bender reported. “That index fell 0.4 percent to 1,691.75 yesterday, and dropped 1.1 percent for the week. The rate on 10-year Treasury notes fell three basis points to 2.62 percent yesterday.”

A shutdown could reduce fourth-quarter economic growth by as much as 1.4 percentage points, depending on its duration, according to economists. The biggest effect would come from the output lost from furloughed workers.

* * *

The president, too, would feel the pinch.

A shutdown of non-essential services would leave the president with fewer people to cook meals, do the laundry, clean the floors or change the light bulbs, according to a White House contingency plan.

“About three-fourths of president’s 1,701-person staff would be sent home,” Bloomberg’s Roger Runningen and Phil Mattingly report.

“The national security team would be cut back, fewer economists would be tracking the economy and there wouldn’t be as many budget officials to track spending. White House policy decisions on the environment and drug policy might get postponed, as the executive mansion struggles to cope with a shutdown of the government.”

“If Congress chooses not to pass a budget by Monday — the end of the fiscal year — they will shut down the government, along with many vital services that the American people depend on,” Obama said yesterday in the White House briefing room.

The executive office of the president would designate approximately 436 employees as “excepted,” or exempt from furlough to perform their jobs. The remaining 1,265 employees would be sent home.

The president and Vice President Joe Biden are exempt from furlough.

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