Current funding for the federal government expires tonight at midnight, but at least on the surface, Republican leaders insist there’s no cause for alarm. They have a plan.
This afternoon, the GOP-led House will hold a vote on a $1.1 trillion spending package, which will draw significant Republican opposition – it doesn’t even try to derail President Obama’s immigration policy – but which Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) expects to pass with some Democratic support. Add some Senate support and possibly a three-day extension on current funding and … Voila! Shutdown averted.
It’s a reasonable strategy, though support from House Democrats waned yesterday as members learned more about one specific provision of the spending bill. As Rachel explained on the show last night:
“After the financial crisis, Congress passed something called Dodd-Frank – a set of regulations designed to keep anything like what happened to the economy in 2008 from happening again.“One of those regulations said to the banks, ‘Hey, you know those incredibly risky trades you were doing that almost made the economy implode – oh, that did make the economy implode – the federal government is not going to ensure those trades anymore. You can do them yourself if you want, but they`re not going to be insured by the taxpayers. You have to keep those separate from the rest of your business.’“House Republicans in the big budget bill they released last night decided to take that rule change away. They decided to tell the banks that, ‘Yes, the American taxpayers would be happy to once again underwrite that kind of high risk trading. Taxpayers would love to be on the hook for that again.’”
We don’t know exactly which member of Congress quietly inserted this measure into the spending bill – wouldn’t you know it, no one has been willing to take credit – but as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) noted on the show last night, ”[T]his was a provision that was written by Citigroup lobbyists. I mean, they literally wrote it. They … re-edited it and made sure it said exactly what they wanted it to say.”
It has been subjected to no debate. There have been no hearings. Members have seen no evidence about the change’s possible effects.
And with this in mind, members of Congress are confronted with a choice: vote for the so-called “Cromnibus” spending package, including this dangerous Wall Street giveaway, or risk a government shutdown.
For many House Democrats, the resolution is to just put the onus on Republicans: they’re the ones who negotiated this agreement; they’re the ones who inserted the lobbyist-written break for banks; and if they want to pass this bill and send it off to the Senate, they can go right ahead.
But there’s also the realization that if Dems balk en masse, the bill will fail because there are enough Republicans opposed to the package to derail the whole package. For critics of the agreement, that’s hardly bad news, though plenty of Democrats worry that a revised deal reached in the new year – when Republicans control both chambers – may be even worse.
So what happens now? Most of the folks I’ve talked to believe the bill will prevail today, though not by much, and opposition is broader (and louder) than it was 24 hours ago. The House Democratic leadership clearly doesn’t like the existing package, but they’re “not mobilizing members to vote against it.”
As the day progresses, keep an eye on the clock. If House Republicans, who’ve been genuinely awful at vote counting in recent years, delay the vote by a few hours, it will be a big hint that they don’t have the 218 votes lined up to pass the bill, forcing some last-minute arm-twisting. If there are no delays, it will suggest the leadership is confident of success.
Watch this space.