Lots to discuss but let’s start with happy news!
Congratulations to Jessie and her husband, Matt, who welcomed Russell Richard Summers to their family on August 25th. Jessie and Russell are doing great and here’s a fun fact – Russell is named after the Senate Office building where Jessie and Matt met.
Is the federal government going to shut down? Didn’t we just go through this fire drill in May?
In May, we were concerned that the debt ceiling would not be increased which would have led to a default on our debt. Increasing the debt limit is a discussion about whether Congress should pay for spending they have already authorized. Thus, it is a discussion that is backward looking and more serious than the discussion going on right now which is whether the government should be funded. Not increasing the debt ceiling would cause major damage to our economy as well as to global financial markets. Not funding the government will cost the American taxpayer for lost opportunities and having to pay for workers sent home. Nevertheless, it is not likely to bring down our economy. You may recall, however, that Fitch (one of the three major US credit agencies) recently reduced the US credit rating in part because of the concern as to the country’s ability to govern in a bipartisan manner and to deal with long term funding and fiscal issues such as problems with Social Security and Medicare. Hopefully, a government shutdown will not also adversely affect our credit rating.
What is being discussed in Congress right now is how much to spend on future legislation. Traditionally, this debate is generally based on partisan priorities. This year, however, there are somewhere between 5 to 8 far right Republicans that appear to not care if the government is funded – rather it seems they are not opposed to a government shut-down. The federal government’s fiscal year ends on September 30th so either a new budget must be in place, or a continuing resolution (a CR) has to be passed by that date. As you may recall, a CR is a short-term extension to keep the government open while a compromise is ironed out. Speaker McCarthy has tried repeatedly to pass a CR but has been unable to do so. A major sticking point for some of the Republicans is that these CRs included $4.5 billion of funding for the war in Ukraine. He also tried to pass the defense appropriations bill twice – usually a sure bet with the Republicans – which did not pass either.
In the meantime, the Republicans are trying to pass separate bills that would fund the government for the full fiscal year. It is apparently irrelevant to all concerned that there is no way these bills would pass the Senate or be signed into law by the President. There is also no way no more than four of the required 12 appropriations bills could possibly be passed before the end of September in the House (let alone the Senate). These are Agriculture and FDA, defense, homeland security and state and foreign operations. A major part of the problem is that the appropriations bills must also be passed by the Senate which (duh…) means they must be bipartisan.
What are the cuts the Republicans want to make? Because the Republicans have agreed to not cut Social Security, Medicare, military, border enforcement and veteran benefits (for the record the Democrats don’t want any of these items cut either), and are not willing to increase taxes, all of the budget cuts must come from items that are considered “discriminatory.” The Republicans also want to increase funding for veteran benefits and immigration (border) enforcement. To accomplish this, severe cuts would have to be made in those discriminatory programs that provide services, ranging from transportation, medical research, education, housing, and social service programs, including science organizations.
In the event of a shutdown, all nonessential workers must stay home and cannot do any work, including checking or responding to e-mails. Even though they do not get paid while the government is shutdown, they are paid when the government reopens. The workers deemed essential must continue to work and they are also paid when the government opens back up.
The longest government shutdown occurred back in 2018 and it continued for 35 days. This shutdown has been estimated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to cost the American economy at least $11 billion, including $3 billion in permanent losses. No indirect costs were included since they were too difficult to estimate. The next longest shutdown occurred back in 2013 for 16 days. There were also two much shorter shutdowns (3 days and 1 day) both in 2018.
There is some talk of moderate Democrats getting together with some Republicans to pass a discharge petition. A discharge petition was prepared earlier in the year by the Democrats when it appeared the debt ceiling crisis might not have been resolved in time to avoid a default on our debts. Since all Democrats have already signed on to this discharge petition, it only needs 5 Republicans to sign on to the petition (provided no Democrats remove their signatures). This would be a way to for Speaker McCarthy to move a CR without his direct involvement. Nevertheless, if this were to occur, Congressman Matt Gaetz would likely offer a motion to vacate the Chair. Then we would probably see rounds and rounds of votes to elect a new Speaker.
Our crystal ball says we’re in for a government shutdown and it’s not likely to be a short term one. But just as we were getting ready to push the button on this alert, it looks like Speaker McCarthy is trying another CR which has additional border measures added that may stand a chance of getting through. Hold your breath! Or maybe don’t….
As an aside, an extremely bright 30-year-old, mentioned to me the other day that he has seen a lot of changes in his lifetime including watching the House of Representatives turn into a true confederacy of the dunces. He wasn’t keen of either the far right or far left members. What a sad commentary.
What does David Crow, our outside legislative consultant, have to say?
“Donald Trump is pushing for the Freedom Caucus to force a government shutdown by demanding spending cuts that exceed the debt ceiling deal between President Biden and the Republican Congress.
Speaker McCarthy has refused to allow the Senate package to be considered. It would have kept the Government operating for seven weeks while both sides worked on a compromise.
McCarthy is in a no-win situation and he knows it. If he allows the problem solvers in both parties to cobble together 218 votes, a motion will be made instantly to vacate the chair and he will almost certainly lose his job.
If he continues to hold out to satisfy the Freedom Caucus the public will blame Republicans in spite of what they say.
This shutdown could last a while. Remember in 2019, the last shutdown lasted 35 days.
More soon, this will get ugly.”
Mitt Romney decides not to run for reelection in 2025. This is bad news for bipartisanship in the Senate. Senator Romney is one of the key moderate Republicans in the Senate and has been instrumental in getting major bipartisan legislation passed.
Save the Date for SBCA 2024 Annual Meeting – February 24-25, 2023, The Henderson Resort, Destin, Florida (more details to come)