Stalemate Central: Political Deadlock Reaches Beyond the Debt Ceiling

Jul 23, 2011 7:01am

gty congress stalemate ll 110722 wb Stalemate Central: Political Deadlock Reaches Beyond the Debt Ceiling

ABC News' Amy Bingham reports:

The debt ceiling is not the only issue that has lawmakers and the White House crippled by partisan stalemate. Disagreements between House Republicans and Senate Democrats, backed by President Obama, are halting legislation and sparking waves of disarray far outside the Beltway.

The latest casualty of this anti-compromise atmosphere is the Federal Aviation Administration, the majority of which will close down at midnight tonight when its funding expires.

Both the House and the Senate adjourned today without passing a bill to reauthorize funding for the FAA, meaning  4,000 workers will be sent home without pay, $2.5 billion of airport construction projects will halt and the government will begin losing $200 million per week in airplane ticket taxes this weekend.

“This is a sad commentary on the political state of affairs in Congress today,” said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the Senate Majority Whip, on the floor today. “Let's not jeopardize the operations of the Federal Aviation Administration because of a squabble over an important but relatively small program. And that's what's going to happen.”

The two chambers have been bickering for months over subsidies for rural airports, which Democrats refuse to cut, and new union membership provisions, which Republicans refuse to allow.

Read more about the FAA shutdown

The FAA stalemate echoes many of the sticking points currently deadlocking the debt ceiling debates where Republicans are pushing their “Cut, Cap and Balance” approach while the president aims for what he calls a “grand bargain.”

The sticking point here is on taxes. Democrats refuse to make steep spending cuts without also increasing tax revenues, while Republicans have said any tax increases would be a deal-breaker.

Both Republicans and Democrats were quick to squash rumors last night that the two sides had struck a deal, or were even close to striking a deal, to raise the debt ceiling and cut budget deficits.

Read more about the latest debt ceiling negotiations

At a University of Maryland town hall today, President Obama urged Congress to find a compromise by evoking the history of Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

“This notion that somehow if you're responsible and you compromise, that somehow you're giving up your convictions — that's absolutely not true,” Obama said. "If Abraham Lincoln could make some compromises as part of governance, then surely we can make some compromises when it comes handling our budget.”

Read more about Obama's town hall today

But compromise seems to be escaping lawmakers on at every turn, even on issues that were passed a year ago.

Another such target in the donkey vs. elephant saga is the Dodd-Frank financial reform act, which was signed into law one year ago when both chambers were controlled by Democrats.

Republicans, who claim the act allows the government too much authority over private banks, have been trying to chip away at the measure since taking control of the House this year.

The House on Thursday took aim at the bill’s centerpiece agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, voting 241-173, almost strictly down party lines, to scrap the bureau’s director position in favor of a five-member commission.

The CFPB, which became operational Thursday, was set up to prevent another financial crisis by policing the predatory lending practices and is currently run under a single director.

Read more about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the “Frank” half of the Dodd-Frank bill, was adamantly opposed to the House’s changes, saying Republicans were trying to take a “sideways” approach to killing the agency.

"The position of the Republican Party is that there is a serious danger that we will over-protect the consumer," Frank said, according to The Hill. "That's an extraordinary fear to have. Indeed, that is not a fear, that's a phobia. It is based on unreality."

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., a member of the Senate Banking Committee who has spoken out strongly against the CFPB, said the bureau was among the “most serious flaws in the Dodd-Frank Act” because it concentrated “unfettered power” in one director.

Shelby is one of 44 Senate Republicans who have vowed not to confirm anyone as the bureau’s director unless power is disseminated to a commission.

But the bill will likely become another victim of the partisan politics dividing Congress considering Democrats in the Senate and President Obama strongly support the bureau in its current form.

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