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4 Ways Washington's Shutdown Showdown Could End

Sep. 23, 2013 - 03:45AM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments
US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., left, has said the House version of a temporary spending bill is 'dead' in the upper chamber. Sen. Ted Cruz. R-Texas, right, and other tea partiers say they will fight to preserve language in the bill that eliminates funding for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.
US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., left, has said the House version of a temporary spending bill is 'dead' in the upper chamber. Sen. Ted Cruz. R-Texas, right, and other tea partiers say they will fight to preserve language in the bill that eliminates funding for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. (Agence France-Presse)
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Showdown Over a Shutdown

If the White House and lawmakers on Capitol Hill fail to agree on a temporary spending deal by Monday, the US government will shut down for the first time since 1996. Click here for complete coverage.

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WASHINGTON — The odds of a US government shutdown escalated last Friday when House Republicans pushed through a temporary spending bill that would kill funding for President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

Lawmakers and aides from both parties reply with a shrug when asked how what promises to be a dramatic week will play out.

“I don’t know what the dance will be in the negotiations,” said House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee member Mike Turner, R-Ohio, before voting for the House governmentwide funding measure last week. “This is just the first salvo.”

The $986 billion continuing resolution now heads to the Senate, where Democratic leaders say they will hold a series of votes this week to strip the Obamacare-killing language and then pass what they call a “clean CR,” or continuing resolution.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., last week declared the House measure “dead” in the upper chamber.

Republicans say the Obama-pushed health law is unsustainable, too costly and will wreck a still sluggish American economy. Democrats acknowledge some adjustments are needed, but say killing all funding in a measure to keep the government functioning for two months is unnecessary.

If anyone on Capitol Hill knows how this latest government shutdown threat will end, they’re doing a remarkable job of keeping it under wraps.

But several possible scenarios are beginning to emerge. Here are a handful, based on Defense News’s conversations with lawmakers, aides and budget analysts, and other media reports.

1. Clean CR, no shutdown. The longest-shot scenario would see the Senate strip the House-approved Obamacare language and pass the Democratic-labeled “clean CR.” No filibusters. No language added on sequester funding rates or new federal spending cuts to attract moderate House Republicans.

Just an orderly process that ends with Obama late next weekend signing a bill to keep his government running until Dec. 15. Don’t bet on it, however.

2. Moderate coalition. House and Senate leaders might quietly aim to pass a temporary CR designed to attract bipartisan support in both chambers. This most likely would be done by stripping the Obamacare language and adding language to fund some — or all, including the Pentagon — federal agencies at lower levels.

This kind of bill would surely attract a healthy number of votes from House Republicans, who loathe one thing more than Obamacare: the size of the US federal budget. Because domestic agencies almost by definition would be forced to incur new spending reductions, liberal Democrats might revolt, as would the most conservative GOP members. But it would have plenty of votes in most chambers, experts say.

“So if enough mainstream Republicans will come together with Democrats, we can make the hard-right irrelevant,” said the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York. Democrats want it, the White House wants it and in their heart of hearts, the Republican leadership wants it, too.

3. Obamacare changes. Schumer and other top Democrats say they won’t negotiate on any Obamacare language.

“Democrats are standing strong, we are standing together, and we’re sending a strong message to the House. We will not blink,” Schumer said. “Don’t get it into your heads that we will — we won’t. ... We’re unified, we’re together, you’re not. So we’re going to stand together to protect the president’s health care law.”

But, as one industry source put it, “they have to give House Republicans something.”

4. Shut it down. The Senate could send the House a bill that GOP leaders refuse to bring to a vote, and the CR process starts over. Or the Senate might take well into next weekend to finish its version of a CR, sending it back to the House too late for the lower chamber to react and schedule a vote.

This scenario could include some kind of procedural tactic by tea party Senate Republicans like Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, who, like House tea partiers, want to kill Obamacare by de-funding its implementation. Perhaps the second Senate floor filibuster in eight months? Dramatic stuff, but unlikely to prevent the Senate from eventually passing a Democratic-written CR.

But Lee on Sunday, during a “Meet the Press” interview, promised “the government will be funded.”

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