The Note: Deal Or No Deal? Shutdown Showdown Comes Down To The Wire

Apr 7, 2011 9:11am


With a little more than a day to go to avert a government shutdown, both sides are still at loggerheads on a bill to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year.

Negotiators worked through the night and President Obama said that a 90-minute Oval Office meeting with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was “productive.”

“I thought the meetings were frank, they were constructive and what they did was narrow the issues and clarify the issues that are still outstanding,” Obama said, adding: “I remain confident that if we are serious about getting something done, we should be able to complete the deal and get it passed and avert a shutdown.”

Reid said he has “confident that we can get this done,” but emphasized “we are not there yet.” Boehner, meanwhile, referred to “some honest differences” that continue to prolong the standoff.

“I want to reiterate that there is no agreement on a number and there is no agreement on the policy,” Boehner said last night. “But there’s an intent on both sides to continue to work together to try to resolve this.”

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos hears that negotiators are still a few billion dollars and several policy riders away from a deal. And in his exclusive interview with Speaker Boehner before yesterday’s White House meeting, the Ohio Republican said he and his GOP counterparts would keep “fighting for the largest cuts that we can.”

“The Democrats controlled the House last year, they controlled the Senate. … And we had a Democrat in the White House. They should have done this budget last year,” Boehner told Stephanopoulos. “Now, we’ve kept the government open while cutting about $10 billion worth of spending. … We’re cleaning up last year’s mess.”

BOTTOM LINE: The public expects the two sides to reach an agreement. According to fresh numbers from an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out last night, 76 percent of Americans predict the warring parties will find a way to head off a shutdown, while 19 percent believe they will not.

And, as far as the blame game goes, Republicans and Democrats can expect to get a roughly even share of the blowback if the government closes its doors after Friday. Thirty-seven percent say they’d fault Republicans in Congress, 20 percent say Democrats in Congress and 20 percent would point the finger at President Obama.

As ABC’s eagle-eyed Congressional watcher, Matthew Jaffe notes, last night’s joint Reid-Boehner appearance, albeit brief, spoke volumes. The two weren’t exactly singing “Kumbaya,” but the gesture seemed to signal a ceasefire in what has been a heated partisan war of words. Both sides continue to sound more confident than they did earlier this week.

WHAT WOULD A SHUTDOWN LOOK LIKE? ABC’s Jake Tapper and Jonathan Karl painted a picture of what a shuttered U.S. government would look like. 800,000 federal workers would be sent home, and for Americans seeking tax refunds:  If you filed your return electronically, there will be no delay.  But if you filed the old-fashioned way you’re going to have to wait. If you are planning a trip this weekend, you may be out of luck — the National Parks are already preparing to close their gates. And as for American troops — their paychecks won't be mailed out during a shutdown although they get back pay after the government re-opens. (ABC's Luis Martinez notes that speaking to a group of 200 soldiers in Baghdad, Defense Secretary Gates drew Army cheers of “Hooah” from the crowd when he eased their concerns about the government shutdown and said “first of all, let me say you will be paid.”)

But here's another alarming fact: Tapper reported that at the National Institutes of Health, a shutdown means seven studies on experimental new drugs will not begin — including two studies on pediatric cancer. 640 clinical trials that would stop admitting new patients in the event of a shutdown — 285 of which are for patients with cancer and 60 involve children with cancer.

ON THE HOMEFRONT. In his remarks last night, Obama chose to highlight Kentucky taxpayer JT Henderson, who was featured in Jake Tapper’s “World News” spot on Wednesday. Obama cited Henderson’s worry about getting his tax rebate, quoting Henderson as saying “all of this political grandstanding has effects that trickle down to normal, everyday Americans.” Obama said, “I could not have said it better myself.” Henderson and his wife had to file their taxes by mail this year because they are set to receive the adoption refund.  (Electronic filing with the IRS will not be affected by a government shutdown.) They adopted Tedi, 4, from Ethiopia in July 2010.  They have struggled with large bills from medical school loans, moving expenses and Tedi's adoption.  “I am worried about how this government shutdown will affect our refund,” Henderson said. “We live check to check.” (h/t ABC’s Jake Tapper and Jon Garcia)


WHO GETS PAID? One group that doesn't need to worry about missing paychecks: Members of Congress. Their checks will continue to come whether or not there is a shutdown. But in his interview with Stephanopoulos, Speaker Boehner said members of Congress "shouldn’t be getting paid just like federal employees shouldn’t be getting paid.”

And the Speaker is not alone. Other elected officials, including Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., support the idea of foregoing their salary. “If the government shuts down, I will take this pledge, and I urge you all — from the President and Vice President to all Members of Congress — to take it with me,” Manchin wrote today in a letter to colleagues. “I will forego my federal salary until we reach an agreement.  I will donate my salary to charity or return it to the Treasury until the government works again. … The bottom line is this: I can’t imagine that the President, Vice President or any Member of Congress – Republican or Democrat – thinks they should get paid when the government has shut down.”


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl welcome Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, to weigh in on — what else? — the chances of a government shutdown and the GOP’s budget proposal. Also on the show: Rep. Dave Schweikert, R-Ariz. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.


“TOP LINE” REPLAY: THAD MCCOTTER. The Michigan GOP Congressman said he thinks the “majority of the public would agree” that a partial shutdown of the federal government wouldn’t be so bad. “But I also think the majority — the vast majority of Americans — don't want to see the government partially shut down because two parties can't agree,” McCotter said on “Top Line” yesterday. “In a very chaotic time for our country, they would like to see institutions functioning. They would like to see the individuals they send to serve them being able to get along.” McCotter said of Speaker Boehner’s efforts, “He wants the will of the majority of the House to prevail, not necessarily the will of the majority party. So I think in his instinctiveness — if he sees something he believes in the best interest of the country — he will try to rope up the votes.”


CHRIS CHRISTIE ON TEACHERS’ UNIONS, 2012 POLITICS AND DONALD TRUMP. In an interview yesterday with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie took another shot at his state's teachers' unions, describing their leaders as "political thugs." Christie offered no apology for his often tough talk that has left some teachers feeling bruised. “I believe the teachers in New Jersey in the main are wonderful public servants that care deeply. But their union, their union are a group of political thugs,” Christie said.  

In the wide-ranging interview, Christie, an emerging rock star of the Republican Party, also talked about his potential presidential ambitions as well as those of his “friend” Donald Trump. “No, I'm not running for president,” Christie said. "I don't feel ready in my heart to be president. And unless I do, I don't have any right offering myself to the people of this country. Christie also downplayed the idea that Trump might actually seek the Republican presidential nomination. “Donald's a really good friend of mine. I don't know that Donald really wants to be President," he said. "We've spoken about it, and all I can say to you is that, you know, I'll believe it when I see it," Christie said. "I think he likes what he does. I think he likes building things. And I think he likes being on TV, and you know, he does that well." (h/t ABC’s Bradley Blackburn)



SPENDING CUTS IN WASHINGTON, BUT BACK AT HOME… “While scores of congressmen and women are singing an ode to spending reductions with their Republican choir in Washington, back home, the tune sometimes changes,” The New York Times’ Jennifer Steinhauer notes. “In town-hall-style meetings and in interviews with local news media in recent weeks, some Republican members have been backing away from the cuts made in various spending bills passed by the House. In some cases, they are trying to circumvent the very cuts they voted for. As House Republicans continue to press Democrats this week for even bigger cuts in a bill to avert a government shutdown, it is likely that more and more members of Congress will face constituents who, while supportive of the concept of cutting federal spending, do not care much for the specifics. Such inconsistencies, while hardly new to this Congress, are political chum for Democrats. ‘You cannot vote to cut veterans’ benefits in Washington and then go pose for pictures with veterans back in the district,’ said Representative Steve Israel, who runs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. ‘There is a pattern of duplicity here, and we’re going to make sure it comes back to haunt them.’”

DEMOCRATS EMBRACING THE GOP PLAYBOOK. “Democrats putting together new independent political organizations for the 2012 campaign are embracing a model that will allow them to conceal their donors — the very tactic for which they criticized Republicans in 2010,” The Los Angeles Times’ Matea Gold and Tom Hamburger write. “Majority PAC, a new group aimed at electing Democrats to the Senate, and American Bridge 21st Century, which will serve as a research hub, are being organized as so-called super political action committees that can raise unlimited amounts of money from contributors whose donations are reported to the Federal Election Commission. But both are also affiliated with nonprofit 501(c)(4) social welfare groups that can raise money from undisclosed donors and give money directly to super PACs. The same dual structure is being considered by Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, two former White House aides who are likely to launch their own independent expenditure effort in support of President Obama's reelection, according to people familiar with the plans. … The move toward using 501(c)(4) groups reflects a widespread consensus among Democrats that they were insufficiently aggressive in raising large donations last year after the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision.”

WISCONSIN PROXY FIGHT TOO CLOSE TO CALL. “A recount and possibly a lengthy legal battle may be necessary to decide the closely watched Wisconsin Supreme Court race in which an incumbent conservative judge trails a liberal challenger, but the fight over what it all means has already begun,” Politico’s Kenneth P. Vogel reports. “Democrats hailed unofficial counts showing JoAnne Kloppenburg with a razor-thin 204-vote edge over Justice David Prosser as a repudiation of Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to reduce union collective bargaining power - and a pivot point that could fuel their party’s efforts heading into the 2012 elections. Republicans cautioned that the count was not official, suggested the possibility of voter fraud, and expressed confidence Prosser could win a recount. At the same time they asserted that should Kloppenburg prevail in the end, it would reflect nothing more than a strong effort by a union machine in a low-turnout election.”

NOTABLE: As ABC News' Political Director Amy Walter pointed out, "this nail biter of an election shows that Wisconsin isn’t red or blue – but deep purple. Moreover, it indicates that this normally sleepy Midwestern state is going to be one of the most hotly contested battleground states in 2012."

SCOTT BROWN: UNTOUCHABLE?  A Massachusetts Senate poll shows Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., crushing all of his potential rivals. According to a Suffolk University/7NEWS poll, “More than half (55 percent) of Bay State voters said that Brown deserves to be reelected, and 56 percent said they agreed that Brown has kept his promise to be an independent voice in the U.S. Senate. … Brown led by at least 15 points in all matchups against potential Democratic challengers, with the exception of Joe Kennedy, who trailed by 5 points (Brown 45 percent, Kennedy 40 percent).”

The Note’s bottom line: With more than $8.3 million in the bank and these strong poll numbers, Brown looks nearly unbeatable. But, we're in something of a political vacuum right now. In 2012, the presidential contest will be driving the debate. And, Brown has to prove that he can define himself and separately from the top of the ticket.

TRUMP GAINING ON 2012 FIELD. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll puts real estate mogul in second place among the GOP presidential field, just behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and tied with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Romney leads with 21 percent support from Republican primary voters, followed by Trump and Huckabee, who each garnered 17 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich stood at 11 percent and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin got 10 percent.

The Note’s bottom line: The results say as much about the rest of the field as they do about Trump. First, about half of the field is basically unknown to all but the most highly engaged GOP electorate. Second, there's real ambivalence among Republicans about the current crop of GOP candidates. And the late start (or more accurately, the lack of a start) for the GOP primary means that these candidates haven't had a chance to define themselves and engage the electorate. Finally, as we all know, the race for the nomination is not a national contest. It's fought state by state. How Trump plays in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina will be more important. Can Trump really do the kind of retail politicking needed to win over voters in these states? And, what happens when Trump has to actually answer questions about his business dealings, personal life and views on issues?



@RichardBuangan: Ambassador Huntsman riding through the streets of Shanghai (photo courtesy Harley Davidson China)

@markknoller: Just about everyone says a US Govt default would be an economic catastrophe. Geithner told Congress "it would be unthinkable."

@mlcalderone: AP offering customers 7-hour live HD television feed for royal wedding — a first.

@nickconfessore: My story:"Cuomo’s Centrism Draws Praise but Stirs Suspicion."

@pwgavin: When you care enough to send the very best, government shutdown version:

@CapitolAlert: AM Alert: Cake and candles for Jerry Brown



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