Before we get started today, I would be remiss if I didn’t say Happy National Margarita Day! We’ll be doing our part to recognize this historic day at Pachanga Grill in Odenton this evening – the first person that mentions they read my blog today gets a margarita on me 🙂 – Ok, on to serious business…
Since October 1st the government has been operating on a series of Continuing Resolutions (CRs). The current CR expires on 4 March. As a federal employee, I’m enjoying watching this train wreck unfold.
The Republican-led House has passed a budget bill that would trim $61 billion in spending for the current Fiscal Year, while the Democrat-[slim] majority Senate is on record as opposing – setting up a budgetary OK Corral showdown in the next couple weeks.
CRs are pretty common in government operation. Most years, agencies and departments operate through Octobers with CRs and the spending authorizations, normally, kick in by November.
2011 is not a normal year. With the strong showing of the fiscally conservative Tea Party in the November elections, the Republican party is trying to rebrand itself (after the Bush years) as the party of fiscal responsibility. The House just got around to passing legislation that should have been passed prior to the mid-term election in 2010. The then-Democrat controlled House opted to not pass a budget for fear of having their vote used against them in the November elections. This rather spineless maneuver still ended up costing them in November and could not be tackled in the lame duck session prior to seating the new congress. The parallels of this congress are eerily similar to the post-1994 Contract With America mid-term election.
In 1995 we were in a similar situation. A new Republican-dominated House wished to assert their electorally-mandated muscle against a politically weak President. Led by House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the house used the budget as a political tool in an age-old game of chicken – who would blink first? In 1995 it was the Republicans that blinked and President Clinton emerged from the impasse significantly strengthened.
Unlike 1995, House Republicans are not threatening a shutdown – although in fairness, they know the budget passed suffices for a verbal threat. This time around it’s the Democrats that are crying shutdown. They are yearning for a repeat of 1995 where the Republicans got the blame and the Democrat party came out the winner.
This time around, it is most likely going to be the Democrats that come out on the short end of the stick. First off, they completely shirked their governing responsibility by not passing a budget prior to the election. Now they are haggling over $61 billion in spending. Senate majority leader Harry Reid has today offered a compromise that slashes $41 billion in spending, but begs for a new CR until they can get it all sorted out. House Speaker John Boehner has already gone on record as saying they will not back another CR, nor will they back off on spending cuts already passed.
Many of my colleagues do not believe we will have a government shutdown – but I was in the government in 1995 and, while I may be in the minority in thinking this – a government shutdown is inevitable. The only thing that keeps it from happening is if the Democrats blink first – which is a [remote] possibility since they tend to govern like jellyfish (spineless…).
Republicans may be cutting spending on programs that we’d rather not seen cut, and they are certainly going to put a moral spin on every spending measure – favoring those valued by the religious right – but one thing is certain: Government spending has to be cut – period! Where they are completely off base is that spending cuts alone will not put a dent in the budget deficit and taxes will also need to be raised – but we’ve covered that ground already…I for one will spend the week of 7 March saying I told you so, oh, and really enjoying the sleeping in until 6am :).
For previous articles on the budget see the following: