Mike & Co. —
The shutdown watch is on. The slow machinery of the Senate is giving the House, which usually acts first on continuing resolutions, precious little time to figure out if it can live with a clean CR and if the House GOP rank and file can abide the price that Democrats are asking to help it over the eventual Senate CR over finish line.
Here is the latest following the opening salvo this afternoon — a Senate vote defeating a CR that would have defunded Planned Parenthood.
The Senate voted 52-47 this afternoon to reject Majority Leader McConnell’s FY 2016 Budget continuing resolution with the amendment that would have stripped funding from Planned Parenthood. The vote divided Republicans, with eight of them opposing the resolution: Sens. Ayotte, Collins, Cotton, Heller, Kirk, Murkowski, Paul, and Ben Sasse (Neb.). Sen. Manchin was the only Democrat to vote in favor.
After the vote, McConnell filed a new short-term spending bill that would fund the government and Planned Parenthood — a clean CR — re-filled the amendment tree with date change amendments, and filed cloture on it. He is relying on Senate Democrats to breach the sixty vote threshold necessary to avoid a filibuster. Although Sen. Cruz is threatening to attempt to stall it, Monday’s scheduled 5:30 pm. vote would be cloture on a clean CR. McConnell will run the 30 hours from then with a final vote late Tuesday or first thing Wednesday, which wouldn’t give the House much time to pass it on Wednesday.
But as of today, close to forty House Republicans are refusing to support a CR that funds Planned Parenthood next year. Of note, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has yet to publicly signal his willingness to assist Speaker Boehner in whipping the requisite 218 votes necessary for passage and Boehner hasn’t acted.
In any event, Boehner will need to rely on House Democrats which gives Minority Leader Pelosi and Minority Whip Hoyer legislative leverage for the first time in months. Their support would come at the steep price of promises of a long-term highway bill and more money for non-defense discretionary programs. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the 2016 sequester cap would result in spending on these non-defense programs equaling the lowest level in the last five decades, when measured relative to the size of the economy.
If a clean CR is a bridge too far for the House, a shutdown becomes a distinct possibility. The public would be reminded of the 2013 standoff, which affected them in a number of significant ways:
- Social Security and Medicare: Checks are sent out, but benefit verification as well as the issuance of cards would cease. While unlikely to happen again, in 1996 over 10,000 Medicare applicantswere temporarily turned away every day of the shutdown.
- Environmental and Food Inspection: In 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency halted site inspections to 1,200 different sites that included hazardous waste, drinking water and chemical facilities. The FDA delayed just almost 900 inspections.
- National Parks: During the 2013 shutdown, the National Park Service turned away millions of visitors to more than 400 parks, national monuments, and other sites. The National Park Service estimated that the shutdown led to over half a billion dollars in lost visitor spending nationwide.
- Health and Human Services: The National Institutes of Health would be prevented from admitting new patients or processing grant applications. In 2013, states were forcedto front the money for formula grant programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (cash welfare).
- Internal Revenue Service: In the event of a shutdown, the IRS, which verifies income and social security numbers, would again not be able to perform this service. In 2013, a backlog of 1.2 million such requests potentially delayed mortgage and other loan approvals. As well billions of dollars of tax refunds were delayed.
Shutting down the government is no example of fiscal frugality. OMB reports that the 2013 government shutdown cost $2.5 billion in pay and benefits paid to 850,000 furloughed federal employees for no work, 120,000 private-sector jobs gone, 6.6 million days of lost work, a backlog in veterans’ disability claims, nearly 6,300 children left out of Head Start, patients left out of cancer studies at the National Institutes of Health, halted consumer-safety work and food safety inspections, delays in tax refunds, and so on.