Notes from the shutdown

Legislation in House to partially restore government funding is resisted by Senate.

Much of the federal government has closed up shop and nearly 800,000 federal workers across the country have been furloughed. National parks and monuments are closed. The websites at several federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation, are offline, replaced by guidance about what the shutdown means for grantees and others. 

President Obama has invited congressional leaders to the White House to discuss the passage of a ”clean” continuing resolution or CR (funding for the government without extraneous legislation attached) and the need to raise the debt ceiling by mid-October. In the meantime, observers are counting the number of House Republicans who have said they are willing to vote for a clean CR. If Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, were willing to break with the more intransigent elements in his caucus, he could bring up a funding resolution that would pass with Democratic votes plus enough Republican votes to put it over the top. Historically, however, House speakers do not like to bring up legislation that less than half of their caucus supports: That maneuver breaks the “Hastert Rule” named for former Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. 

It appears the House leadership has a few more cards in its hand, however. The House will vote Wednesday afternoon on five resolutions that would fund portions of the government through Dec. 15, 2013. One would allow some of the national parks and Smithsonian museums to reopen. One would pay for some veterans’ health care. One would allow the District of Columbia, whose budget is largely self-funded but has a federal component, to use its own funds to operate. The D.C. government is operating now by using contingency funds. Another bill would pay military reservists. A fifth bill would reopen the National Institutes of Health. House and Senate Democrats oppose this piecemeal strategy, and are holding out for a comprehensive solution to the budget crisis. President Obama has threatened a veto if any of the bills should reach his desk. The bills are expected to pass in the House. Stay tuned for further updates!