Shutdown Showdown: Blame Game Already Underway, But Will Government Really Shut Down?

By John R Parkinson

Mar 29, 2011 2:50pm

ABC News’ John R. Parkinson reports: 

With negotiations between a divided Congress and the White House on a long-term spending bill creeping along and less than two weeks remaining to reach an agreement on a deal, the blame game is already in full force debating whose fault it would be if the government shuts down. 

But just how real is the threat of a government shutdown? 

Despite all of the spin, hype, and hyperbole, Congressional sources admit that a shutdown is unlikely. So far each time a doomsday deadline approaches both sides have been able to work out a deal on a short-term extension. 

But after funding the federal government incrementally once again, Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle — and even President Obama — have said that another short-term extension would be “irresponsible,” “inefficient” and “demoralizing.” 

With the last short-term spending bill signed into law and the government currently scheduled to run out of money on April 9, Boehner and Reid have been seemingly cautious not to buck their respective political bases, leaving the negotiations at an impasse. 

So will Boehner and Reid actually sit on their hands through the final buzzer and watch idly as the government shuts down? 

Congressional sources say a deal to keep the doors open could emerge as soon as Friday in order to meet the House’s requirement that bills are on the floor at least 72 hours before a vote and then give the Senate enough time to pass it. 

The Constitution stipulates that spending bills must originate from the House of Representatives, but the Senate could take up H.R. 1 again (which – depending how you look at it – cut $61 billion from FY2011 spending levels or $100 billion compared to the president’s FY2011 budget request) and amend it to whatever House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid agree to (with the Administration’s blessing, of course). Otherwise the deal could emerge in a new bill from the House Appropriations committee, like the past two short-term extensions. 

Although negotiators have meet as recently as Friday and Monday, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat Charles Schumer insinuated that by holding out, Boehner is “agonizing over whether to give in to right-wing demands that they abandon any compromise on their extreme cuts.” 

Today a spokesman for Boehner shot back at Schumer. 

“Sen. Schumer is not part of the CR negotiations, and he is making up fairy tales trying to derail serious discussions on funding the government and cutting spending, because he believes his party would benefit from a government shutdown,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said. “At this point, the House has passed a bill to fund the government through the end of the year while cutting spending.  The Senate has not – and Sen. Schumer’s inaccurate rants won’t change that.” 

Boehner, R-Ohio, is expected to hold a media availability later this afternoon to address the latest developments in the negotiations. 

Hoyer, the No. 2 ranked House Democrat, told reporters Tuesday morning that the framework on an agreement appears to be “fairly close,” but agreed with Schumer’s contention that Republicans are having trouble finding agreement within the GOP conference with what Hoyer dubbed “the Perfectionist caucus” – conservatives who are steadfast in their position and will not agree to lower levels of spending cuts with Democrats. 

“The problem is not disagreement between Democrats and Republicans. The problem is disagreement between Republicans and Republicans. The Tea Party has become more and more strife,” Hoyer, D-Maryland, said. “Government is not going to work by threats.” 

“The fact of the matter is that Perfectionists caucus’s tail is wagging the Republican dog. And if the Perfectionist caucus prevails in [the GOP’s] caucus,…you can’t get to compromise, you can’t get to an agreement,” Hoyer added.  “Let us hope that cooler heads prevail in the Republican Party and the leadership does in fact find a way.” 

Hoyer said that the assertion that Democrats control Washington is “not accurate” and said a long-term deal will necessitate give and take by all parties to the negotiations. 

“It’s self-evident that we don’t control Washington, that the American people elected Republicans to control the House of Representatives. They’re one-third of three,” Hoyer said. “The president, the Senate and the House will have to come to an agreement.”

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