Political Animal


September 23, 2011 1:20 PM Start the government shutdown clock

By Steve Benen

Senate Democrats told House Republicans in no uncertain terms: if you approve the spending bill that plays games to emergency disaster, it will fail. With a pressing deadline, wasting time on a partisan ploy is pointless.

GOP leaders pressed their luck anyway and passed their little stunt overnight, daring Dems to defeat it. They did.

The Senate voted Friday morning to reject the House’s stopgap spending bill, less than twelve hours after the House’s Republican leaders had forced it through on their second try.

The Senate vote was 59 to 36 to table the House bill, effectively killing it. Some conservative Republicans joined in rejecting the measure.

The plan may change, but as I understand it, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will amend the House version, pass it, and then send it back to the lower chamber. Specifically, the “fix” will be to increase the funding for disaster aid and remove the offset targeting clean-energy programs. That vote will apparently come Monday.

Whether the House will be there to consider the bill is unclear. Remember, both chambers are scheduled to be out next week. It was key to Speaker Boehner’s (R-Ohio) “jamming” strategy — he’d pass the bill he liked and then leave town. The message to the Senate wasn’t exactly subtle: pass the spending measure my way or the government will shut down.

As one senior House Republican aide put it, “There is no other option than for the Senate to pass our bill. That’s it. That’s all. There is no next step.”

Remember when Boehner decried “my way or the highway” thinking last week? Apparently, he’s forgotten it. Indeed, his caucus also seems to have forgotten there’s another chamber, led by a different party, that’s not in the mood to pay another GOP ransom.

It’s important to keep one key detail in mind. House Republican leaders are saying this afternoon that their bill is important to provide aid to disaster victims, and it’s Dems who are standing in the way. That’s dishonest garbage — Senate Dems already approved more FEMA aid, with bipartisan support, and pleaded with the House GOP not to play games with the funding. Republicans, playing the role of ill-tempered children, couldn’t help themselves.

To put it mildly, the clock is ticking. Not only is the deadline for a government shutdown one week away, but FEMA will run out of funding, apparently as early as Monday — three days from today.

There will be talks over the weekend to try to resolve the differences. House Republican members are still threatening to leave town today, apparently unwilling to do their jobs.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • c u n d gulag on September 23, 2011 1:34 PM:

    "The Shutdown/Shakedown Republicans."

    But, of course, the MSM will paint this as a bipartisan problem - the Democrats should have capitulated.

  • Jon on September 23, 2011 1:36 PM:

    Yay to the Senate for growing a pair.

  • Rick Massimo on September 23, 2011 1:38 PM:

    The GOP isn't acting like petulant children; they're acting like abusive spouses: "Everything would be going smoothly and peacefully if you'd just give me everything I want."

  • bleh on September 23, 2011 1:39 PM:

    And so, as always, the question is, will the Democrats fight back?

    Will Harry Reid and his seconds use language as absolutist as that used by Boehner and Cantor and their seconds?

    Will he call them out for playing politics with disaster relief? For forcing yet another hostage crisis on the American people in a time of need? For leaving town without the job finished? Will he / they call out the Republicans for "deserting their post" and for "stealing away in the dead of night like thieves?"

    And if he does, will the activists and commentators of the Left keep their mouths shut instead of pointing out punctiliously and unctuously that, technically speaking, some of those criticisms are unfair and others might be applied to the Democrats themselves?

    One would like to hope so. One will not, however, bet the farm just yet.

  • Hedda Peraz on September 23, 2011 1:42 PM:

    To paraphrase Trent Lott, "If only the voters hadn't elected Obama, we wouldn't be having all these troubles today".

  • Mimikatz on September 23, 2011 1:50 PM:

    I believe Obama can call Congress back into session if the House leaves. Maybe the idea is to have the GOPers leave then have Obama call them back but only the responsible Dems and a few GOPers from states that need the disaster aid come back and it passes by 205-15, assuming half the House is a quorum.

    What a bunch of crybaby irresponsible sociopaths. The party of death and (no) taxes except on the middle class.

  • RT on September 23, 2011 1:55 PM:

    @Mimikatz: I was thinking that too. Almost the entire GOP House caucus would have to stay home to deny a quorum. If they all refuse to show up, that can be hung around their necks.

  • pgbach on September 23, 2011 1:56 PM:

    President Obama needs to let Boehner know if the House leaves town that he (President Obama) will call them back to pass the Continuing Resolution the Senate sends the House.

  • kevo on September 23, 2011 1:58 PM:

    When the media becomes democratically serious, then we will be a bit more properly informed as to just who's doing what to whom in our nation's capital, and just what we Americans can expect out of our dysfunctional Congressional institution.

    The Tea Partying Republican faction is running roughshod over the rest of us as they can't see pass their predisposed prejudice toward government to actually begin to govern at all!

    The Mayans believed 2012 was the end time, and if American voters sustain the Republican majority in the House, and allow them to gain the Senate and Oval Office, the end time of our democratic heritage will be upon us.

    If, though, American voters punish the Republicans at the polls in 2012, the end of the Republican party will mean a new beginning for us all, after the demise of the party that is truly holding us back as a democratically open and liberty-mined people!

    Voter registration drives, voter ID support measures, and voter persuasion efforts need to begin in earnest now as we can't rely on the MSM to truthfully engage the moronic political rhetoric coming from the likes of any Republicans who pride themselves as national leaders! -Kevo

  • SYSPROG on September 23, 2011 2:33 PM:

    Go ahead and leave town. I'm thinking that will work just about as well as putting a hold on the FAA legislation and leaving. DO YOUR FLIPPIN' JOBS! You know, I could use a salary of $165,000 a year. And I would WORK.

  • danimal on September 23, 2011 2:56 PM:

    Is the House adjourned? Cuz if it is, Reid can pass a clean bill, adjourn and Obama can make recess appointments to his hearts content.

    And if the House isn't adjourned, they better well get back to their damned jobs.

  • Josef K on September 23, 2011 2:56 PM:

    Two immediate questions:

    1. can the President legally recall members of the House back to Washington?

    2. what happens when the idiots refuse to heed the President's recall?

  • June on September 23, 2011 2:57 PM:

    Republicans have played the "shutdown" card a little too often. My prediction is that this will backfire badly on them. And about time.

  • SW on September 23, 2011 3:48 PM:

    SHUT IT DOWN HARRY. The tea-tards own this. It will be the end of them.

  • max on September 23, 2011 4:01 PM:

    "There will be talks over the weekend to try to resolve the differences. House Republican members are still threatening to leave town today, apparently unwilling to do their jobs."

    Good. Do nothing as usual, go home, and see how impeding disaster relief for desperate people in the name of your wacky ideology works out for you. Finally, someone is calling these sons of bitches out.

  • Texas Aggie on September 23, 2011 6:52 PM:

    I kind of was thinking along the same line as Mimikatz. Right now the repubs are whining about the Democrats not passing their bill. If the Senate passes an amended version and sends it back to the House, then the ball is in their court. They have to do something with it or people will blame them. They know that.

    So if the Senate does its job, then the repubs are kind of stuck unless they come back, and if they do, then they'll have heard an earful from their constituents and will be less likely to screw up the works. One can hope, anyway.

    by the way, typing anything you want for the real word works fine. As far as Captcha is concerned, Lives = die

  • Sarafina on September 23, 2011 6:52 PM:

    Josef K - YES the president can call Congress into session.

  • mfw13 on September 23, 2011 7:25 PM:

    Can somebody please explain WHY the House and Senate are not scheduled to be in session next week? It's a working week for the rest of America....

  • max on September 24, 2011 1:15 PM:

    Chicken Little attacks again. Yawn.