U.S. Politics | Reuters.com


U.S. Politics

  • Good Monday to you, readers. It's a day of deadlines, so let's get right to it, shall we?

    At 1pm ET we'll be covering the daily White House briefing, which will likely be dominated by the government shutdown that will begin at midnight ET absent agreement in Congress on a funding bill.

    We'll also have video at 2pm ET of the Senate's reconvening after a weekend off. You might recall that on Friday Harry Reid and the Senate's Democratic majority pushed through a "clean" bill to fund the government until November 15th, meaning that it stripped out the House's prior inclusion of a provision defunding Obamacare. Reid made clear that weakening Obamacare would always be a Senate nonstarter and government shutdowner.

    Well, over the weekend the House volleyed the funding bill back to the Senate with measures that delay Obamacare for a year and repeal a medical device tax that helps fund the law. House members also railed against Reid and the Senate for their opposition to such changes and decision to not follow the House with an emergency weekend session, saying that it was a delay tactic meant to raise the negotiating stakes. For a good sense of the rhetorical state of play, watch this New York Times video of a presser in front of Congress:

    All reports suggest that Reid will ensure the Senate rejects the Republican changes, save for the military pay protection passed in seeming anticipation of a shutdown, and sends another clean funding bill back for the House to consider with hours before the shutdown deadline.

    House Speaker Boehner then faces a limited, vexing set of options, as John Dickerson of Slate outlines:
    He can allow a vote on the Senate bill that passed (with Democratic votes) on Friday to fund the government until Nov. 15 or permit the shutdown to go forward, as a way to pressure the White House and satisfy his most conservative members.


    But if he permits the Senate funding measure to make it to the floor, he would need Democratic votes to pass it. That would lead to a sharp reaction from those conservatives who have been making his life so exciting lately.

    It's a stark choice that will make or break Boehner's hold on his divided caucus and House leadership. Chatter of classic congressional can-kicking in the form of a month-long funding measure or some other half-measure suggests other ways out, and anything can happen as time wanes and the stakes rise. The two weeks until the next crisis over the debt limit may encourage extending the negotiating window.

    Of course, Obamacare is more than a fiscal flashpoint -- it is a law affecting millions of Americans that is rolling out tomorrow, shutdown or not (due to funds already committed). Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas of the Washington Post make the point that the shutdown frenzy initiated by Obamacare opponents may actually do the law a service:
    The Obama administration has been a bit afraid of October 1st.


    But with a government shutdown and a looming debt-ceiling crisis obsessing the media and the country, the media simply has less bandwidth to cover the rollout of the health-care law. That gives the administration, as well as the states, a bit more breathing room to find and fix bugs in the early days without seeing the law declared a failure.


    But all of this speaks to why the Republican Party is so frightened. Until now, Obamacare has been an abstraction. You can repeal an abstraction. Tomorrow, it becomes a reality. And reality is a lot harder to repeal.

    Now, if you've made it this far, in some state or other of anxiety and/or befuddlement, you could do worse than watching this NBC News look back at the last government shutdown in 1996 and wondering at cyclical and cynical Washington:

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