The Note: Sunny With A Chance Of Shutdown: What Are The Odds?

Apr 6, 2011 9:00am


Even some of the best political prognosticators disagree when it comes to placing odds on whether Democrats and Republicans will be able to reach a budget deal, averting a government to shut down before the end of the week.

Though there’s no safe bet, Washington odds-makers are much more optimistic this morning than they were last night. One smart Hill watcher put the chances of a government shutdown at just 15 percent; another puts it at 40 percent. This morning a Republican Hill aide said the odds were 50/50 “at best.” ABC White House correspondent Jake Tapper picked the same numbers last night.

So why the cautious optimism? A meeting yesterday on Capitol Hill between House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was “productive,” aides to both lawmakers said, according to ABC’s Jonathan Karl. More productive, in fact, than a much more contentious gathering of the principals at the White House yesterday.

After that meeting, President Obama scolded Republicans for not meeting Democrats halfway.

“What we can't do is have a 'my way or the highway' approach to this problem,” the president said yesterday. “Nobody gets a 100 percent of what they want. And we have more than met the Republicans halfway at this point.”

And New York Sen. Chuck Schumer told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” today that “there’s a little bit of hope. A little more than a glimmer of a candle but it’s certainly not a full burning, bright burning candle,” when it comes to the possibility of a government shutdown.

“The Tea Party folks are putting pressure on Speaker Boehner to just cut this narrow section not because they want the deficit down … but because they have this additional goal of just stopping government programs and these are vital programs that most Americans support,” Schumer said. “Here’s the problem: The Tea Party just continues to pull … Speaker Boehner back and back and back. If he can resist them, not give them their way on everything I think we can have an agreement and that’s why there is a glimmer of hope.”

Schumer said there are three areas of disagreement: exactly how much to trim from the federal budget, where those cuts should come from and the riders that lawmakers want attached to the bill, especially those dealing with social issues like abortion.

Time is running out, and Sen. Reid and Speaker Boehner will continue meeting today on the Hill. At this point there are no plans to return to the White House although President Obama left the door open to follow-up session if the two sides can’t broker an agreement on their own.  

Tapper reports that yesterday the president told Speaker Boehner that he should be able to sell $33 billion in cuts to his caucus since that was the original figure proposed before Republican lawmakers upped the ante to $61 billion. Boehner pushed for more yesterday, countering with $40 billion in cuts.

POLITICAL FALLOUT. The base loves the fight, but those in the middle don’t. A Pew Poll released on Monday showed that while 50 percent of Republicans said they’d rather see lawmakers stand by their principles — even if that means the government shuts down — just 38 percent of independents feel that way. Instead, 53 percent of independents say lawmakers should be more willing to compromise, even if that means Congress passes a budget they disagree with.

One smart GOP strategist The Note talked to yesterday warned not to read too much into polls that ask “who you blame” for a government shutdown. It’s hard to know just what kind of response people will have until they feel (or don’t feel) the effects of what’s now just a theoretical debate.

BOTTOM LINE. Shutdown or no shutdown, Washington politicians have already  done more damage to their already battered image. Remember, most Americans could care less about parliamentary procedure and finger pointing. The fight over seemingly arbitrary figures (Is $33 billion the starting point or ending point?) and policy (Should government fund Planned Parenthood or not?) loses sight of the bigger picture — namely, how is any of this wrangling going to get Americans back to work and the economy back on its feet. The party that can successful make that case will be the party that wins in 2012.

PAUL RYAN — BUDGET SLAYER. “House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan's 2012 budget proposal entails sweeping changes to Medicare and Medicaid that set the stage for a furious partisan battle and could change the face of the nation's health care programs for the poor and elderly,” ABC’s Huma Khan notes. “The Ryan plan completely overturns the new health care law and proposes a major reform to Medicaid and Medicare, a move Republicans understand could be politically caustic. ‘This is not a budget. This is a cause,’ Ryan said when asked today if his plan could be political suicide. Under Ryan's plan, Medicaid would switch to a block grant system, meaning the federal government would allocate money to states, giving them more flexibility in how they tailor their programs for the poor. Currently, the federal government matches every dollar that states spend on Medicaid and the formula varies from state to state.”

OBAMA VS. BOEHNER. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said thatwe strongly disagree with” the approach Congressman Ryan outlined yesterday. “Any plan to reduce our deficit must reflect the American values of fairness and shared sacrifice.  Congressman Ryan’s plan fails this test.”

House Speaker John Boehner shot back today with a statement saying that he was “disappointed but not surprised that the White House has chosen to attack Chairman Ryan’s budget proposal. Chairman Ryan has put forth a ‘serious, honest, and straightforward approach’ to addressing our nation’s enormous fiscal challenges.’ Those aren’t my words, but rather those of the bipartisan co-chairs of the president’s own deficit commission, whose recommendations he ignored when putting together his budget.”

Boehner’s message points to a statement in The Hill newspaper from fiscal commission co-chairs Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson. While they do, indeed, note that “Ryan has made a very constructive contribution to move the debate forward and has put many ideas on the table that deserve serious consideration” the two also write: “We are concerned that it falls short of the balanced, comprehensive approach needed to achieve the broad bipartisan agreement necessary to enact a responsible plan. The plan largely exempts defense spending from reductions and would not apply any of the savings from eliminating or reducing tax expenditures as part of tax reform to deficit reduction.”

HEALTH CARE REFORM GROUP SAYS: ‘HANDS OFF MEDICARE.’ The left-leaning advocacy group, Americans United for Change, is going on the air with a new ad hitting Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal, which it says “would privatize Medicare and leave seniors paying more for less care while at the same time handing out billions of dollars in tax breaks for millionaires and big corporations.” The spot, titled, “Hands Off Medicare” is aimed at “anyone who will ever be 65 or older.” A narrator says: “Monday, word leaked of a plot to steal one of your most valuable assets – your Medicare. The same Republicans who refuse to end tax breaks for millionaires want to put you at the mercy of the big insurance companies.  If you know the whereabouts of these Republicans, call them. Tell them. Hands off my Medicare.” The ad will air on nationally on MSNBC and on cable news stations in the Washington, DC area. Watch the ad:


A CONVERSATION WITH CHRIS CHRISTIE. ABC’s Diane Sawyer will interview New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie one-on-one today. In a wide-ranging conversation, Sawyer will talk to Gov. Christie about his first year in office and his plans to reform New Jersey’s education system and tackle hot button issues like teacher tenure and merit pay. In addition, Sawyer will talk to Christie about the evolving field of candidates who are looking to rub elbows with him as they vie for the Republican nomination in 2012. The interview will air tonight on “World News with Diane Sawyer” and will continue later “Nightline.”  

REMINDER: TUNE IN — HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER ON ‘GMA.’ ABC’s George Stephanopoulos will sit down with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, today. The interview is set to air tomorrow on “Good Morning America.” It’s Boehner’s first network television morning interview since becoming Speaker.


ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE.” ABC’s Rick Klein and Jonathan Karl welcome Rep. Thad McCotter, R-Mich., and Rep. Raul Gijalva, D-Ariz., who will both weigh in on the GOP’s budget proposal and the prospect of a government shutdown. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.



MEMBERS TO LIMIT STAFF FURLOUGHS. What happens if the worst happens? “A day after the House Administration Committee released guidelines informing Members how to run their offices during a government shutdown, some lawmakers said they will not furlough a single staffer,” writes Roll Call’s Daniel Newhauser. “Though Members were told staff has to fulfill a constitutional duty to work, lawmakers have wide latitude to choose who is ‘essential’ and who is ‘nonessential’ and would thus be furloughed, according to guidelines released Tuesday. ‘My staff is going to be reporting to work,’ Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.) said. ‘I don’t like where we’re at, but my staff is going to be here with me trying to do our jobs and figure it out.’ Staffers would only receive back pay if Congress passes a provision in the next spending bill restoring pay for the time that the government was shuttered. That could take months or not happen at all.”

STATES FEAR LOCAL EFFECT OF POTENTIAL SHUTDOWN. “Already straining to make ends meet as the longest downturn since the Great Depression grinds on, state and local governments are now facing a new, unwelcome question: What would a shutdown of the federal government mean for their struggles to balance their budgets?” The New York Times’ Michael Cooper writes. “If a shutdown were to happen, the federal money that helps states pay the administrative costs of their stretched unemployment programs could dry up, forcing states to advance the money to keep the programs running. Federal grants for a variety of programs — including research, higher education and training local law enforcement officers — could be delayed. Furloughing nonessential federal workers and halting payments to federal contractors could have a domino effect as local tax collections plummet in the Washington area and other places with many federal workers. And if national parks were closed, some states could lose tourism business, and the local tax revenues they generate.”

THE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ ERA AT THE DNC. “With the announcement yesterday that current DNC Chair Tim Kaine is running for the Senate in Virginia came the news that Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz will replace him,” ABC’s Amy Walter notes. “Wasserman Schultz, 44, brings some significant assets to the table. Besides the obvious fact that she’s a woman, she’s also a proven fundraiser and a skilled on-air  surrogate. A breast cancer survivor, she is also a close friend of Rep. Gabby Giffords. … Now that she has been nominated to the DNC job, the full committee will then vote on her nominating. This is really a formality since DNC members aren't going to buck the president. If she wins the election, she will become the first woman elected by the full membership to serve as chair. There have been two other women who have served as Chair of the DNC but one was on an interim basis and one was appointed but never stood for election.”

OBAMA’S 2012 FUNDRAISING ASK. “While President Barack Obama’s campaign hierarchy is settling into new Chicago headquarters, his elite fundraisers already are feverishly working to meet a target of generating a roughly $300 million down payment for the reelection effort,” Politico’s Jeanne Cummings reports. “‘It’s going to be 2008 2.0,’ said one Obama fundraiser, who’d just finished making a telephone pitch to a potential donor. ‘We’re going to have to work our asses off.’ The campaign’s ask for bundlers: $700,000 total. Each bundler is being asked to generate a combined $350,000 in contributions to the Democratic National Committee and the re-election campaign in 2011 and 2012, a two-year plan that could provide a steady flow of cash. The benchmarks represent a significant increase over the $250,000 target set during the 2007 run-up to the early primaries.”

NOTABLE: OBAMA 2012 STAFFS UP. ABC’s Jake Tapper reports that starting next month, former White House assistant press secretary Ben LaBolt will serve as spokesman for President Obama’s re-election campaign and former White House associate director of press advance and press pool wrangler Katie Hogan will be his deputy. LaBolt served as the spokesman for Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel’s campaign.

The National Journal’s Marc Ambinder has more names: “Elizabeth Jarvis-Shean, who ran Obama's internal-research shop inside the White House, will move to Chicago as director of research for the campaign.  … Marlon Marshall, formerly with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, will be the deputy national field director for the campaign. … And Elizabeth Lowery, a regional finance director for Clinton, will be deputy director of finance, reporting to chief fundraiser Julianna Smoot.”

WHITE HOUSE WATCH. President Obama will travel to the Philadelphia area today, visiting Gamesa Technology Corporation in Fairless Hills, where he will hold a town hall discussion with workers about building a clean energy economy. Later in the afternoon, the President will travel to New York City where he will deliver remarks at the National Action Network’s Keepers of the Dream Awards Gala, hosted by Reverend Al Sharpton and the National Action Network, at the Sheraton New York Hotel. (h/t ABC’s Sunlen Miller)



@JakeSherman: .@SpeakerBoehner has not yet been invited to the White House for budget talks

@JesseFFerguson: Remember Paul Ryan called it Ryan-Rivlin plan 4 announcement (trying 2 make it bipartisan)? Rivlin doesn't support it.

@ThePlumLineGS: Liberal commentators grow increasingly angry w/Obama for not engaging GOP on big argument over government:

@fivethirtyeight: FWIW, think Christie could enter the race VERY late without much harming his chances.

@HotlineJosh: My latest column: Mitch Daniels' much-maligned social truce winning the day in the GOP presidential race

@nationaljournal: Happy birthday @MicheleBachmann! (She turns 55 today.) Read our Tuesday profile on her here:



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