Friday, April 8, 2011

Federal Budget Showdown Hits Critical Mass

Updated 10:45 p.m. edt

The angry founder of Tea Party Nation threatened tonight to run a primary challenger against Speaker John Boehner if he agrees to a budget deal with Democrats that averts the shutdown of the federal government. (Dana Bash of CNN just reported there is a deal.)

Sarah Palin was none too happy either.

"GOP: don't retreat! The country is going broke. We can't AFFORD cowboy poetry & subsidizing abortion," Palin Tweeted this evening (Washington time).

"If we can't fight to defund this nonsense now when we have the chance, do you think we'll win the big fight on entitlement reform later on?" she said in a separate Tweet.

The threats of running a candidate against Boehner came from Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips came as the Speaker of the House huddled behind closed doors tonight with the GOP rank and file to sell them on a framework for an agreement. The White House was also reviewing the framework.

According to National Journal, citing multiple GOP and Democratic sources, "The outline of the deal is as follows: up to $39 billion in cuts from the 2010 budget, $514 billion in spending for the defense budget covering the remainder of this fiscal year, a GOP agreement to abandon controversial policy riders dealing with Planned Parenthood and the EPA, and an agreement to pass a “bridge” continuing resolution late Friday night to keep the government operating while the deal is written in bill form."

Word of a deal apparently set off Phillips.

"Boehner is selling us out tonight. We will primary Boehner next year,"  Phillips said on his @teapartnation Twitter feed.

He also lashed out at President Obama and the Democrats.

"Obama and the party of treason think abortionists are more important than our military and their pay," Phillips Tweeted.

end update

Updated 1:30 p.m. edt

Republicans and Democrats are speaking two different languages today.

Democrats say the sticking point is a GOP cut for funding for 3 million women who get their primary care from Planned Parenthood. The GOP seems to be saying that issue has been resolved.

"Republicans want to shut down the government because they want to make it harder for women to obtain the health services they need," Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said today on the Senate floor.

But just a short while ago GOP House Speaker John Boehner was asked about the Planned Parenthood rider attached to a Republican bill, saying: "Almost all of the policy issues have been dealt with."

Polls and recent history show signs that most Americans are going to blame the Republicans if the government shuts down in the next 10+ hours, though President Obama is in the crosshairs of an angry electorate, as well. Jockeying for position, Boehner has tried to counter the impending blame game.

"We have no interest in shutting down they government... but we're not going to roll over and sell-out the American people," Boehner told reporters.

end update
Updated 11:15 a.m. edt

It looks like the Tea Party-driven Republican Party is adamant that funding be cut for Planned Parenthood or else there is no deal on a budget.

Democrats charge Republicans want to tamper with women's health at the expense of paying the men and women who wear the uniform of the U.S. Armed Services and 800,000 other federal workers.

GOP Speaker John Boehner is spending the final hours before the government shuts down at midnight trying to make the case that Republicans are really just trying to cut the budget, but has yet to explain why he has drawn a line in the sand with Planned Parenthood funding.

Feeling the heat from the unpatriotic implications of the budget showdown, Boehner a short while ago tried to side-step screwing the Armed Forces by urging passage of a bill that would pay them but shut down the government. The maneuver appears to be going nowhere.

So is this thing really about cutting spending? Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says no, accusing the GOP of using deficit-reduction to impose a social agenda on Americans.

This is going to come down to the wire, but as of now it looks like the government is going to shut down at midnight.

End update

With 24 hours left until the government shuts down, there are dire warnings that military pay and some tax refunds will not be able to be processed and 800,000 federal workers will be furloughed.

All the while members of Congress making about $173,000 a year will continued to get paid, even as some of their own staff are told to stay home, do not telecommute or answer mobile phones or Blackberry devices.

President Obama, who has been convening routine meetings with the congressional leaders, met again last night (Thursday) with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), but no deal was agreed to. They will be at it again today, at least until the deadline is reached.

"What I’ve said to the Speaker and what I’ve said to Harry Reid is because the machinery of the shutdown is necessarily starting to move, I expect an answer in the morning. And my hope is, is that I’ll be able to announce to the American people sometime relatively early in the day that a shutdown has been averted, that a deal has been completed that has very meaningful cuts in a wide variety of categories, that helps us move in the direction of living within our means, but preserves our investments in things like education and innovation, research, that are going to be important for our long-term competitiveness," Obama said.

Military families in particular are shaking their heads over then impasse and threat to take paychecks away while loved ones fight in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.

"They don't need more stress. They don't need to be worrying about nus back home," said Amy Tersigni, whose husband, Army Pvt. Kevin Tersigni, is serving in Iraq.

"They need to focus on finishing what they need to do and keeping themselves safe. So the financial stress doesn't need to happen," the mother of two, who will be broke by the end of the month, told CNN.

The blame game is complex.

Republicans blame the then-Democratic majority for failing to pass a budget last year. Democrats blame Senate Republicans for blocking Democrats from reaching the 60 votes necessary to end a filibuster and pass a budget.

Some Democrats even blame Obama for failing to jump into the politically punishing budget battle in recent weeks.

Sen. Bernie Saunders (I-Vt.) says Democrats are culpable in this showdown for another reason: Once they allowed the Bush-era tax cuts for the rich to continue it opened up the opportunity for Republicans to go after the severe budget cuts to tackle the federal deficit. Saunders has said he cannot support deep budget cuts without some "shared sacrifice" with changes to the revenue stream, like wiping out tax loopholes for hugely profitable oil companies.

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