Friday, April 1, 2011

The Fools on the Hill

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock. Seven days to go till the government shuts down and still the “powers” that be can’t agree on what will be in THE continuing resolution that will ride out the rest of this current fiscal year and hopefully allow tensions to subside; that is until the next budget year.

Both sides have dug in their heels. On the Left, progressives see any substantial budget cuts as caving to Republican whims; on the Right, conservatives see anything short of the $61 billion in cuts that they promised their Tea Party constituents as a betrayal of their core beliefs.

So where does that leave the supposed $33 billion dollar compromise spearheaded by Mr. Agent Orange himself, John Boehner, and Senate Democrats? Somewhere between life support and dead on arrival, that’s where. And while many think that the stumbling block will be the progressives in the House and Senate, I’m betting the ranch the real Waterloo, if there is one, will come from the other side of the aisle: courtesy of the Tea Party.

After watching these ideologues now for more than a year, I am convinced that a showdown – e.g. shutdown – is exactly what they want. Compromise is not written into their DNA. It’s their way or the highway, and if they can’t get what they want, they’re perfectly willing – and apparently able – to let the whole thing go to hell in a hand basket. I can’t wait until the debt-ceiling debate commences, but that’s another blog for another time.

I give credit where credit is due. Boehner, for his part, at least understands the political impact and fallout from a government shutdown. The last Speaker of the House who presided over a shutdown – old cry me a river Newt Gingrich himself – virtually gift wrapped Bill Clinton’s ’96 reelection. Boehner knows history and he has no appetite for a repeat performance. Unfortunately he is in for the battle of his life, as many within his party seem determined to jump off the cliff into political oblivion. Compared to the task before him, Nancy Pelosi had a virtual cakewalk with healthcare reform.

Things are not looking terribly optimistic that a compromise can be reached. For one thing, even if Boehner manages to get enough House Republicans to vote yes on “only” $33 billion in cuts, and assuming Harry Reid can muster the necessary votes in the Senate, there’s still the sticky issue of the policy riders to the original House bill calling for defunding PBS, Planned Parenthood and, the motherload of all, the healthcare reform law. This is a non-starter for Democrats. While Boehner has hinted he will drop them in any proposed deal, there’s no telling how his caucus will respond. Already there are strong hints being dropped that the Tea Party will issue a primary challenge to the Speaker and any House Republicans who don’t toe the party line. Can you spell blackmail?

The wingnuts are all up in arms and chomping at the bits, dying to show the country their resolve. And still the clock keeps ticking toward what many are now calling the inevitable. While a disgusted nation looks for responsible leadership to take charge, it seems only a miracle can prevent a shutdown.

Mr. President where are you?

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