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As Talks Continue, Reality of Government Shutdown Comes Into Focus

Weeper of the House John Boehner (DonkeyHotey)

No real movement thus far today on talks to avoid a government shutdown, but there is one piece of good news: the water works are functioning again.

John Boehner was driven to tears again today. This time it happened at a closed-door meeting of House Republicans.

According to sources inside the meeting, Boehner it happened while Boehner was speaking to the group about the latest on his negotiations with Democrats over government funding. Boehner talked about his meeting yesterday with President Obama and then, in a rousing conclusion, he thanked the House Republicans for standing by him and supporting him through these tense negotiations.

The Republican conference responded with a standing ovation for their speaker.

As you could imagine, that prompted the Speaker to cry.

“Yes,” said one person at the meeting, “He cried, but only briefly.”

I don’t like to mock a man for crying. So I’ll just mock him for crying over the great love his white male colleagues show him and not the prospect of poor people dying on the streets of America.

To the extent that there are talks, they are being administered by Boehner chief of staff Barry Jackson and Reid chief of staff David Krone. And despite the claims that the level of cuts number has changed, that doesn’t seem to be the issue as much as the many policy riders:

At a higher level, Boehner and Reid are still miles apart on the policy riders that Republicans are demanding — including controversial restrictions on abortion, EPA authority, and implementation of the health care law. Reid and President Obama drew a firm line on these in a White House meeting with Boehner on Tuesday. They’re making the case that even if the Speaker manages to secure a small number of them, he’ll be as much on the outs with conservatives in his party as he would be if he comes back empty handed.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel responded to this version of events in an email. “There’s no way we can come to agreement on a number without agreement on riders,” he said. “There will be no deal on a number until there’s agreement on riders.”

Seems like the confusion over the level of cuts is a deliberate strategy to pack as many riders into the bill as possible.

Call me a pessimist, but I don’t see any way this gets done. And so the media has begun to turn to the real-world consequences of a government shutdown. And they are pretty grave. National parks would shut down. Non-essential agency personnel would be sent home without pay, and they’d have to turn in their Blackberries. Cleanup on toxic waste sites could be halted. While homeland security operations would continue, it would occur with reduced staffs and particularly reduced management. Fannie and Freddie could stop guaranteeing loans, as could the Small Business Administration. The implications are virtually limitless.

Some of the worst effects would hit the states:

If a shutdown were to happen, the federal money that helps states pay the administrative costs of their stretched unemployment programs could dry up, forcing states to advance the money to keep the programs running. Federal grants for a variety of programs — including research, higher education and training local law enforcement officers — could be delayed.

Furloughing nonessential federal workers and halting payments to federal contractors could have a domino effect as local tax collections plummet in the Washington area and other places with many federal workers. And if national parks were closed, some states could lose tourism business, and the local tax revenues they generate.

“It all comes down to timing,” said Scott D. Pattison, the executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers, which has been fielding calls this week from nervous state officials. “If it’s just a few days, you can deal with it. But if it’s over a week or two, the financial management people’s foreheads start to get a little sweaty.”

By the way, don’t worry: our many wars will continue. The soldiers fighting them just won’t get paid, is all.

The ultimate cost of this foolishness depends on the length of the shutdown. But the fiscally responsible members of Congress bringing us this shutdown ought to know: there will be a cost.

CommunityThe Bullpen

As Talks Continue, Reality of Government Shutdown Comes Into Focus

No real movement thus far today on talks to avoid a government shutdown, but there is one piece of good news: the water works are functioning again.

John Boehner was driven to tears again today. This time it happened at a closed-door meeting of House Republicans.

According to sources inside the meeting, Boehner it happened while Boehner was speaking to the group about the latest on his negotiations with Democrats over government funding. Boehner talked about his meeting yesterday with President Obama and then, in a rousing conclusion, he thanked the House Republicans for standing by him and supporting him through these tense negotiations.

The Republican conference responded with a standing ovation for their speaker.

As you could imagine, that prompted the Speaker to cry.

“Yes,” said one person at the meeting, “He cried, but only briefly.”

I don’t like to mock a man for crying. So I’ll just mock him for crying over the great love his white male colleagues show him and not the prospect of poor people dying on the streets of America.

To the extent that there are talks, they are being administered by Boehner chief of staff Barry Jackson and Reid chief of staff David Krone. And despite the claims that the level of cuts number has changed, that doesn’t seem to be the issue as much as the many policy riders:

At a higher level, Boehner and Reid are still miles apart on the policy riders that Republicans are demanding — including controversial restrictions on abortion, EPA authority, and implementation of the health care law. Reid and President Obama drew a firm line on these in a White House meeting with Boehner on Tuesday. They’re making the case that even if the Speaker manages to secure a small number of them, he’ll be as much on the outs with conservatives in his party as he would be if he comes back empty handed.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel responded to this version of events in an email. “There’s no way we can come to agreement on a number without agreement on riders,” he said. “There will be no deal on a number until there’s agreement on riders.”

Seems like the confusion over the level of cuts is a deliberate strategy to pack as many riders into the bill as possible.

Call me a pessimist, but I don’t see any way this gets done. And so the media has begun to turn to the real-world consequences of a government shutdown. And they are pretty grave. National parks would shut down. Non-essential agency personnel would be sent home without pay, and they’d have to turn in their Blackberries. Cleanup on toxic waste sites could be halted. While homeland security operations would continue, it would occur with reduced staffs and particularly reduced management. Fannie and Freddie could stop guaranteeing loans, as could the Small Business Administration. The implications are virtually limitless.

Some of the worst effects would hit the states:

If a shutdown were to happen, the federal money that helps states pay the administrative costs of their stretched unemployment programs could dry up, forcing states to advance the money to keep the programs running. Federal grants for a variety of programs — including research, higher education and training local law enforcement officers — could be delayed.

Furloughing nonessential federal workers and halting payments to federal contractors could have a domino effect as local tax collections plummet in the Washington area and other places with many federal workers. And if national parks were closed, some states could lose tourism business, and the local tax revenues they generate.

“It all comes down to timing,” said Scott D. Pattison, the executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers, which has been fielding calls this week from nervous state officials. “If it’s just a few days, you can deal with it. But if it’s over a week or two, the financial management people’s foreheads start to get a little sweaty.”

By the way, don’t worry: our many wars will continue. The soldiers fighting them just won’t get paid, is all.

The ultimate cost of this foolishness depends on the length of the shutdown. But the fiscally responsible members of Congress bringing us this shutdown ought to know: there will be a cost.

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David Dayen

David Dayen