Will the government shut down Friday? Honestly, no one knows for sure

Rep. John Kline
Rep. John Kline

WASHINGTON — Right now, if I absolutely had to make a prediction and was given no option of equivocating, I’d say the government won’t shut down Friday.

GOP Reps. John Kline and Chip Cravaack both agreed last week on that point, saying no one wanted a shutdown and they were optimistic it could be avoided. The White House and Senate Democratic leaders went further, insisting that the framework of a deal was in place.

Friday is when the current continuing resolution funding the federal government runs out and, if no more money is appropriated, the government will shut down.

But I’m not nearly as sure today that government will keep on humming as I was at the end of last week. Let me explain why, and in so doing list the top three reasons why I think Congress will find a way to keep the doors of government open, alongside two reasons why I could be completely and totally wrong.

Why a shutdown will be averted
The schedule —
 Currently, lawmakers are scheduled to be back in their districts on Friday and over the weekend, and no one has yet proposed amending that schedule. This past weekend, members were back in their districts as well, rather than staying here trying to work on a deal. President Obama, meanwhile, is set to travel to Indianapolis to talk about energy. One imagines those plans would have to be amended if the time was needed to avert a shutdown.

The focus — Later today, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan will unveil his 2012 budget, and it’ll be the subject of committee hearings later in the week. Democrats are working on a countermeasure. One wonders why so much attention would be paid to next year’s budget, if a deal on this year’s was so far off. 

The deal — There are two parts to this. The first is that it has been widely reported (and Democrats in the Senate and the White House have confirmed on the record) that lawmakers were working negotiations around the figure of $33 billion in additional cuts for the remainder of the year. Speaker John Boehner and a majority of his GOP counterparts have said their priority is to avert a shutdown, but more than a few in his caucus have told me that he needs to project a tougher line to win as many concessions as possible. Hence, the language about a deal not being agreed until everything is agreed. But as of Friday, the expectation here was that a deal was inevitable.

Speaker John Boehner
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Speaker John Boehner

Let’s say it’s not though. Well, news came this morning that Boehner and co. are working on another continuing resolution. It would be a one-week CR that also funds the Defense budget through the remainder of the year. It would extend the negotiating timeline by just a week, and move the showdown to next Friday, the day before Congress is set to go on a two-week Passover/Easter recess.

And why a shutdown may still happen
Deal? What deal?
 The $33 billion agreement that seemed inevitable last week may now have fizzled under pressure from the GOP’s right flank, including Michele Bachmann, to push for more cuts. The Hill reports that Boehner is demanding more in cuts now, and even his one-week CR has $12 billion in additional cuts. Democrats, who say Boehner agreed in private to the $33 billion figure, are also talking openly about the need to hold firm on this issue so they don’t get rolled on bigger votes down the road, like the debt ceiling showdown (likely May or early June) or the Fiscal 2012 budget (a must-pass bill by September 30).

Monday, not Friday may be the real deadline day, says one budget expert who notes that a weekend shutdown might impact few people. 

“While there would be headlines and would lead the news, it would barely be noticed or cause many political ripples because most of the government offices and facilities that would be affected by a shutdown would be closed anyway,” wrote Stan Collender on his Capitol Gains and Games blog.

“As a result, although the people heading to a national park or the Smithsonian might be inconvenienced over the weekend, the real deadline for getting an agreement signed is next Monday morning. That effectively gives House Republicans, Senate Democrats, and the White House until COB Thursday rather than tomorrow to get their act together.”

Rep. Collin Peterson
REUTERS/Mike Theiler
Rep. Collin Peterson

Solely anecdotally, I’ve heard a lot more of Collender’s thoughts come out of lawmakers’ mouths this week than I did last week. Admittedly, what I randomly overhear isn’t exactly a scientific sampling, but the line of logic certainly seems more prevalent, and that could mean a brief shutdown is in the offing.

Additionally, several lawmakers are preparing for a weekend shift. “We’ll be here Friday night, Saturday, Sunday … and they’ll work something out by Monday,” Rep. Collin Peterson told The Hill.

So will a shutdown happen? Honestly, I don’t know that anyone knows at this point. My guess is still probably not, but I wouldn’t bet too much money on that.

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by dan buechler on 04/05/2011 - 11:14 am.

    Doesn’t a government shutdown in 2012 almost seem inevitable? I mean usually you settle a budget before the year and the republicans(teas)are still arguing about 2011. I’d like your thoughts on this. Usually they don’t pull stunts as much in even year cycles but I could be wrong.

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/05/2011 - 11:24 am.

    I know. Yes it will. The Republican always shut the government down when they get into congressional power in any significant way. If they don’t shut down, it tells the Tea Party if over… that would be nice.

  3. Submitted by John Olson on 04/05/2011 - 01:36 pm.

    Boehner is between a rock and a hard spot.

    If he tries to cut a deal with Obama and the Democrats, he runs the risk of having to rely on a significant bloc of Democrats to support a “deal.” In addition to being potentially politically embarrassing, it would provide ample fodder for Michelle Bachmann and the Tea Party.

    On the other side, Boehner knows that siding with the Tea Party faction means no deal with the Democrats in the Senate. Moreover, he runs the risk of having the Tea Party try to dictate that $61 billion in cuts are no longer good enough and more cuts are needed.

    Good luck, Mr. Speaker. You’re going to need it.

  4. Submitted by Derek Wallbank on 04/05/2011 - 04:20 pm.

    Dan – If this goes to shutdown, I think the odds of a future shutdown depend greatly on how this one shakes out. If the GOP is blamed and takes a serious hit, it makes future compromises more likely.

    However, if blame is split equally, or falls primarily on Democrat shoulders, then exactly the opposite.

    But I think you’re on to something. Of the three big budget debates – FY 2011, debt ceiling and FY 2012 – this is by far the easiest one.

    That is to say, for a Congress that can’t seem to come to an agreement even when a deal is close, it doesn’t get any easier from here out.

    By the way, the quandary John outlined is the same for each scenario – but it’s even more amplified on the next two votes. I think people can outline a potential compromise here, and probably on the debt limit too. But I haven’t talked to anyone on the Hill in recent weeks who sees the compromise point on FY 2012.


  5. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 04/05/2011 - 04:52 pm.

    The reason they’re “still arguing about 2011” is because the democrats left town last year without passing a budget for this year. They didn’t want their members to have to vote on unpopular budget items that could hurt their re-election chances so they just left town without a budget.

    So they’re arguing and threatening to shut down the government over a budget that the democrats failed to pass last year when they controlled the congress.

  6. Submitted by Tim Walker on 04/05/2011 - 04:53 pm.

    Boehner said today: “We don’t have a revenue problem. We have a spending problem.”

    Sorry, Boehner, but when G.E. makes $5 billion in profit and doesn’t pay a dime in taxes, WE HAVE A REVENUE PROBLEM!

  7. Submitted by dan buechler on 04/05/2011 - 05:39 pm.

    Tester, you are just plain wrong if it hadn’t been for the tea party and some of the damage they have done to the republican party, there would be no arguing about fiscal 2011 in 2011. What do you think about the debt ceiling and Giethner’s remarks? Dennis, Derek, anyone?

  8. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/06/2011 - 08:00 am.

    Once again Obama disappoints. Talks break off and he blames it on “politics”. This isn’t politics, it’s an attack by right wing ideologues trying to cram their extreme agenda down America’s throat. Obama could be building off of the backlash against Walker in Wisc. right now but instead he’s pretending that reasonable people just can’t close the deal. When the government shuts down he’s going look just as responsible as the Democrats. When is this guy going to pull his head out of his rear end and realize these guys are NOT going to work with him. He needs to stop pretending their partners and start treating them like adversaries. Republicans like shutdowns, they prove their ideological purity and solidify their base. They don’t believe in government anyways, why would they care if it shuts down?

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