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Last Stop Before Shutdown Gulch

Today is essentially a deadline for reaching agreement on a plan to fund the government without a shutdown. Sure, a weekend shutdown wouldn’t affect many people, and you could put Monday on a contingency. Also, the Republican “rule” of 72 hours’ notice before voting on legislation has already been broken this year. But as long as both sides treat today as a deadline, then it’s a deadline. And adding to the urgency, the House is supposed to spend the next two weeks out of Washington in their districts.

This is why the House has put together a one-week continuing resolution. It includes a huge $12 billion in spending cuts, and would fund the Department of Defense for the rest of the fiscal year. This is pretty devious. As we saw yesterday, House Republicans started increasing defense spending to force more cuts to come from social spending. Presumably that elevated defense budget would be the one in the short-term stopgap. It would lock in that level of spending, and it would make $12 billion of cuts in one week, the equivalent of over $600 billion over the course of a year. Members of Congress would probably welcome putting the military budget to bed, but the trade-off here is enormous.

Boehner said he needed the bill for “leverage”:

“He said he needs this [the as-of-yet-introduced bill] and the support of the conference going into that meeting at the White House, because he feels it gives him more leverage,” the source explained to The Hill.

Actually, it’s more like an offer they can’t accept. This is about the blame game. Boehner can go to the media and say that he offered a short-term stopgap to allow time to finish negotiations, and the darn Democrats just didn’t agree to it. House Appropriations Committee Chair Hal Rogers also floated a story about Harry Reid obstructing progress. This is all about the aftermath:

Rogers said that House and Senate negotiators made “good progress” on Saturday toward a spending deal for the rest of the year, but that talks “ground to a halt” on Sunday when Reid instructed his staff “not to proceed any further with negotiations.”

“We made good progress Saturday, but come Sunday things just stopped. Sen. Reid has stopped good faith efforts.”

“Sen. Reid has instructed his staff not to agree to any policy riders, and all numbers had to go through him, so the Senate negotiators really had nothing they could talk about,” Rogers said.

A government shutdown was “certainly in the possibilities,” Rogers said. “We want to avert that at all costs.”

Needless to say, the Democratic argument is somewhat different, focused on how Republican staff started changing numbers and boosting military spending out of nowhere.

The House GOP has distributed a shutdown plan that describes how the House will operate without funding for the near future. They’re basically calling their shot.

Barring a miracle, we’ll have a shutdown of indeterminate length on Friday.

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David Dayen

David Dayen