Day 14! Welcome to week 3 of the World Championship Adult Playground Face-off.* Are you tired of this yet? Do you have shutdown fatigue?
This weekend was like an extended version of one of those social situations where a big group of people are all trying to pick a place to go out to dinner– but one person is a pescatarian and another is a vegan and another has a nut allergy and another is gluten-free and another is doing the paleo thing, eating piles of meat. A recap:
House Republicans: We love this place. Loooove it, it’s so good. You guys will like it too. Let’s go there!
President Obama: I appreciate the constructive nature of this conversation we’re having. But I have some concerns.
Harry Reid: Oh, we’ve heard of that place. You know we can’t eat there. We’re not even going to negotiate about that.
Paul Ryan: Hey everybody, I’m still around!
Susan Collins: What if we go to this place? They have a bit of funding to open the government for a few months, and we can get a side order of lifting the debt ceiling until the end of the year. That might give us some time to negotiate without defaulting, and also get furloughed folks back to work.
Harry Reid: You’re not doing us a favor by proposing we eat dinner, because we need to do that anyway. We need to find a place we can all eat.
The conventional wisdom of the weekend was that no workable deal would come from the House, and so something needed to come from the Senate. Yesterday and today, that seems to be what’s happening– Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid are passing dealmaking notes, and passing them to each other instead of to CNN. The good thing is, maybe this means that there is actual movement forward. The bad thing is, no one has any idea what they’re discussing. Generally, it seems like they are negotiating two timeframes: (1) how long to lift the debt ceiling, and; (2) how long to re-open the government, by providing funding through a short-term continuing resolution. At this point, it seems like there is some hope for a deal soon, but it’s not clear what the features of that deal would be.
This is all good, in the sense that it’s better than bad. But it doesn’t seem complete. Whatever the outcome of the current negotiations, it seems like we’re still talking about temporary fixes. Let’s say we re-open the government until December 31st. Let’s say we hit another impasse in negotiating the way forward. Or, let’s say another member of Congress decides to take a stand about a particular issue and gets enough people to go along with her/him that they can’t pass the next continuing resolution to keep the government open for business on January 1. Then what? While it seems like the time frames for lifting of the debt ceiling and for a continuing resolution that would re-open the government and are the main subjects of the current negotiations (and, maybe, the elimination/delay of the medical device tax as a source of funding for Obamacare), it seems that the size of the federal budget is still the subject of some back and forth between the parties. If they don’t figure that out now, that leaves it pending for future discussion.
Democrats: We can’t keep eating at this place that only serves sequester cuts. We’ve been going to that place for a while now!
Republicans: But the sequester is delicious! Waiter, another serving of sequester, please.
Federal workers got their last pre-shutdown paychecks this weekend, woohoo! Thank goodness for automated payment systems. Just got (60%) paid, it’s…Monday morning. On my couch, rocking to CNN. C’mon, let’s get on down now.
Some federal workers on furlough are using their free time to volunteer at a Washington DC food pantry. I am very impressed with this because I, clearly, am not doing that. Maybe those people should get paid for having actually worked in some capacity during the shutdown. I should probably have my next several paychecks withheld for being a horrible person, all louche and lazy, lying around writing this blog.
*No, not that kind of adult playground.