Government Shutdown Countdown: One Week

by Lane Florsheim


What will John Boehner do? That's the Congressional question of the week, as the legislative branch moves closer and closer to its October 1 deadline to fund the government and prevent a shutdown.

Right now, it looks like Senator Ted Cruz's (R-TX) grand plan is to filibuster a bill that he actually supports. To explain: Cruz is worried that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will remove the part of the funding bill the House passed that defunds Obamacare, he's calling on his colleagues to block the House bill.

But it doesn't look like that's going to happen. The Senate’s top two Republican leaders, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), are trying to impede his plan to stall the bill, no doubt because they are fully aware the government is on schedule to shutdown in seven days if no deal is reached.

McConnell and Cornyn announced that the push to defund Obamacare wasn't enough for them block the measure in the Senate. Meanwhile, Reid could potentially amend the House bill in two additional ways. The Senate Majority Leader is considering advancing an amendment that would keep the government open until Nov. 15 instead of Dec. 15, as specified by the House. Reid may also remove the House bill provision that describes how the U.S. should handle a potential debt default.

In sum, it looks like the Senate will eventually pass a bill that will fund the government without defunding Obamacare.

Which brings us to the question: WWJBD?

As Politico explains, House Speaker Boehner, along with Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, will be faced with one of the most complicated and politically sensitive decisions of their majority — and just hours before the first government shutdown since Clinton's presidency.

The Republican House leaders could pretty much do one of two things: They could pass the Senate bill, which will all but certainly include funding for Obamacare. This will only happen if enough Republicans think they can win a fight to delay Obamacare's individual mandate when the debt ceiling needs to be lifted in the coming weeks. In other words, it's unlikely.

Or, if House Republicans aren't budging (are they ever?), Boehner could amend the bill to defund Obamacare yet again and send the legislation back to the Senate, risking a shutdown. Around and around and around we go. The only reason this scenario might not happen is if fear of political backlash for their party pushes Republicans to pass the Senate bill.

“I don’t tell them what do to, I just know what happens when you shut down the government,” said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who added he’d vote to break a filibuster to block the stop-gap bill this week. “If they want to shut it down again, that’s their desire. Same move, same ending, different way of getting there.”

If a shutdown were to happen, the Washington Post's Wonkblog has you covered with a handy guide to what you can expect. Spoiler alert: The shutdown would affect a lot of employees and a lot of industries, having an overall hugely detrimental impact on the economy. And it wouldn't stop Obamacare from being implemented, either.

Update: So far in Cruz's non-filibuster filibuster (as Talking Points Memo points out, Senate procedure limits how long he may speak before the initial vote to invoke cloture, and he can't speak for long enough to do so), the senator has likened Obamacare defunding skeptics to Nazi appeasers. Totally logical. One and the same.