Republican House leadership had to cancel a test vote on Tuesday intended to show support for NOT shutting down the Federal government in October. Ooops. There weren't enough Aye votes to keep government going.
The debt ceiling must be raised by midnight on 9/30, but many conservatives in the House GOP refuse to condone it unless Obamacare is defunded first. Many also want deep cuts in long term spending, especially Medicare and Social Security. Some are demanding that the Paul Ryan budget must be accepted as written or they won't fund the government.
These are extreme positions, and extremely stubborn Right Honorable Gentlemen, so a showdown followed by a shutdown looks likely right now. It's the default outcome at this point, if no bottoms can be budged from their principled positions.
The split in the GOP is over how best to defund Obamacare. Some say closing down the government later this month is the only way to force the issue, ever. But House leadership wants to defund Obamacare by some other means to be discussed after passing a clean temporary funding bill. They fear the public blowback if they shut down the government.
So the GOP is in disarray at the moment, but relax. On the primary goal of defunding and preventing Obamacare from ever happening, the Grand Old Party is united. They're just discussing how.
Many astute political observers point out that if Obamacare rolls out as planned over the next two years, many right wing voters will discover to their amazement that they and their children can actually get affordable health insurance, with subsidies if needed. As anyone who's gone without insurance can tell you, being able to go to the doctor and still afford gas, rent and groceries leads to a life-changing revelation about the value of the social safety net.
The GOP will lose these voters as long as GOP politicians keep trashing Obamacare. These folks won't vote for Republicans who crusade to take it away. That's the existential Republican fear about Obamacare. The loss of much of their voter base will leave the GOP out in the political wilderness for decades to come no matter how much corporate money they throw into ads and Super PACs and think tanks and cable television channels. It's easy to see why stopping, delaying, and obstructing Obamacare here and now is so important to these conservative pols.
John Boehner and Eric Cantor have a tough couple weeks ahead, somehow badgering together just enough conservative votes to swing a simple majority vote along with the Democrats to NOT shut down the government 19 days from now. The tough nut to crack is in what these conservative pols want for their cooperation on a temporary spending bill. They want zero money for the implementation of Obamacare included, and it has to be written into a cast iron bill that the Senate can't pick apart, voting to pass the temporary spending portion and cutting out the defunding of Obamacare part. That little jig's happened 40 times already. They want a real bill.
Boehner and Cantor do not.
They'll put their shoulders into it, but if the votes aren't forthcoming . . . everything shuts down October 1st by default. Oh sure, Treasury can keep some essential things functioning for a few weeks by juggling balances around, but the pain starts on the 1st day of next month.
It's so utterly unlikely that the Senate will pass a bill defunding Obamacare that the whole idea should long since have been recognized as a lost cause.
So why not give up on it already, for Pete's sake?
Because government shutdown gives the radically conservative members of the House a really big stick for once, and they intend to use it. They want Obamacare dead, dead, dead and this their last, best chance to kill it. Health care exchanges roll out on October 1st. Unless there's no money to roll them out. These pols don't see a better opportunity to save their jobs ever coming along, no matter what John Boehner promises them can be accomplished later. It's now or never.
So now it is.
They're serious. They don't care that shutting down the government will seriously damage the GOP as a viable political party, reduce GDP by 1% to 2%, do enormous damage to "the full faith and credit of the United States government" around the world, and cost a great many Americans working days, income, benefits, overtime and even their jobs as we head into the holiday season.
But what's all that compared to winning, hey? Besides, we're saving America!
The current role of Congress is to solve all our country's problems by seeing that Obama is obstructed and stopped. Always. The pattern of saying a resounding NO to anything Obama has proposed over the past 5 years is still in full force with Republicans, not just in Washington but out in the states where the GOP holds either the governorship and/or a majority in the Legislature. All sorts of irritating little laws and regulations have been thrown up in the way of a smooth rollout of Obamacare across the country.
There are only nine brief legislative days scheduled in September, yet at the very moment when politicians working together for the good of the country is truly needed, we have a conservative revolt in full swing in the House, making the outcome a crapshoot.
Bookmakers are laying odds of 59% today on government shutdown due to paralysis in the House throughout the month. Not impossible odds, but you'd usually go with the other team with a number like that. Yes, there might still be some special session or last minute negotiations arranged -- there usually is -- but remember the White House attempted definitive budget talks in August. Both sides gave up on discussions after a day because positions were so far apart, and no one was willing to give concessions the other side considered sufficient.
No one sees a change in the weather yet.