Several Congressional staffers have told me recently that they aren’t very optimistic about the chances of the continuing resolution by the March 4th deadline. It’s important to note, however, that almost all of them realize that a government shutdown isn’t going to be politically popular. While everyone is talking about the political ramifications of a government shutdown and trying to figure out which party would receive more of the blame, almost everyone agrees that the shutdown would be bad for the American people. That is why there has been a lot of discussion about the possibility of passing a short term funding solution that would keep the government running for a few weeks while Congress continues debate on the continuing resolution.
Since the whole idea behind passing a short term compromise would simply be to give Congress a little more time to debate, common sense suggests that funding would be kept at the current levels. That isn’t the case with the proposal put forward by the House Republicans. In a conference call today, GOP leaders said they will be releasing a funding plan that would have $4 billion in cuts in a plan that would only keep the government running through March 18. This proposal shouldn’t be too surprising, however, because the GOP has shown it’s not interested in real negotiations and simply wants to blame the Democrats for all of our country’s problems. A prime example of this is how Speaker Boehner has been actively trying to claim “Senate Democratic leaders are insisting on a status quo that has left us with a mountain of debt and a stalled economy with unemployment near 10 percent.”
When he was asked about the GOP’s claims that the Democrats are just spending uncontrollably, Jason Furman (the deputy director of Obama’s National Economic Council) told a group of us gathered at NDN to “look at our budget.” He continued by pointing out that Obama’s proposed budget “takes spending to the lowest overall level as part of the economy since the Eisenhower administration.” Furthermore, the president’s budget reduces the deficit by $1 trillion over the next decade. All of the savings from cuts in the GOP continuing resolution, on the other hand, go towards covering the cost of tax cuts for the extremely wealthy and repealing health care reform.
What this all means is that the Republicans are trying to play political games with the budget. Instead of actually putting together a budget that reflects the priorities of the American people, they’ve proposed one that will rally their tea party base and the large corporations that fund their campaigns. They’re even doing this in the short-term spending resolution that is supposed to simply give more time for a good faith debate surrounding the continuing resolution to take place. If the Republicans don’t stop using these tactics, then a government shutdown is likely and the GOP will be to blame.