Another Government Shutdown? Washington Prepares for a Nervous Breakdown
iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times
By Eric Pianin and Martin Matishak
September 21, 2015
It wasn’t a good sign late last week when Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced a bill assuring that all of the 2.7 million federal workers eventually would be paid if the government shuts down in ten days.
With the Obama administration digging in its heels and congressional Republicans sorely divided over controversial funding for Planned Parenthood, Washington may be headed for the once-unthinkable – a second government shutdown within two years that could jar the economy and put many people temporarily out of work. As they have done so often in the past, lawmakers allowed the budget process to flounder for months while they tended to other issues and then went on vacation for the month of August.
As a result, Washington begins this week on high alert, with the very real prospect that federal workers will be sent packing, government buildings and museums will be shuttered and national parks and the Washington Monument will be closed to the public in a week and a half unless both sides come to their senses. Politics are as fractured as ever today, with right wing Republicans not only battling with President Obama and the Democrats over spending issues and the Iran nuclear deal, but also threatening to topple their own leaders.
On Friday, the GOP-controlled House approved legislation to freeze funding for Planned Parenthood in the wake of this summer’s hidden-camera video controversy. The move is an attempt to placate the party’s hardliners who would rather shutter the government than see another federal dollar go to the women’s health care organization, which also performs late-term abortions and has been accused of selling fetal body parts.
Like Reid, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who could face a revolt by conservatives, is leaving nothing to chance. On Thursday the chamber approved a measure invoking “martial law,” meaning any spending bill that funds the government and clears the powerful Rules Committee can be brought to the floor immediately, skipping the usual one-day wait. This suggests that Boehner and others expect the battle to keep the government open will go down to the wire– Sept. 30.