There are just five days remaining for Congress to pass legislation to prevent a government shutdown, and overnight, the odds of some modicum of success appear to have improved. In the Senate, where a spending measure was on track to pass Sunday night, a bipartisan agreement was reached that will "accelerate" the process -- the chamber should now wrap up its work on Saturday.
In theory, this could give House Republicans time to reject the Senate bill, push another far-right alternative, and practically guarantee a shutdown, but all evidence suggests that's unlikely. As National Journal reported, "Conservative Republicans in the House appear ready to back off their demands that the short-term funding resolution Congress must pass to avoid a government shutdown also defund or delay Obamacare."
So, for those hoping congressional Republicans don't shut down the government, this is good news, right? On the surface, yes. Based on overnight developments, a shutdown appears less likely than it did a few days ago.
The problem is, as the Washington Post and others are reporting, GOP lawmakers appear eager to trade one hostage for another -- and the next hostage crisis will be far more serious.
With federal agencies set to close their doors in five days, House Republicans began exploring a potential detour on the path to a shutdown: shifting the fight over President Obama's health-care law to a separate bill that would raise the nation's debt limit.If it works, the strategy could clear the way for the House to approve a simple measure to keep the government open into the new fiscal year, which will begin Tuesday, without hotly contested provisions to defund the Affordable Care Act.But it would set the stage for an even more nerve-racking deadline on Oct. 17, with conservatives using the threat of the nation's first default on its debt to force the president to accept a one-year delay of the health-care law's mandates, taxes and benefits.
This is nothing short of madness, but it's nevertheless quickly become the preferred Republican plan -- the GOP is prepared to let one hostage go (they won't shut down the government), while putting a gun to a new hostage (Republicans will trash the economy on purpose unless their demands are met). All of this will play out over the next 22 days.
The next task, aside from preventing a shutdown, is filling out the details of the ransom note.
* A delay in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act;
* Approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline;
* The elimination of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau;
* A tax-reform blueprint Republicans consider acceptable;
* A block on combating the climate crisis;
* The elimination of Net Neutrality;
* An extension on destructive sequestration spending cuts;
* Scrapping elements of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory reform law;
* Medicare cuts;
* Tort reform;
* Maybe a ban on late-term abortions.
In exchange, Democrats would get ... literally nothing. And if their demands are not met, Republicans will crash the economy, push the nation into default, and trash the full faith and credit of the United States for the first time in American history.
Republicans could try to achieve these goals through the normal legislative process, but they probably realize those bills would fail to become law. So, as they abandon American governing and adopt policymaking-by-extortion, these unhinged lawmakers figure they'll just load up a must-pass bill with goodies, and threaten deliberate harm to Americans unless they get their way.
This is evidence of a political party that's gone stark raving mad. If you hear a politician or a pundit suggest this is somehow normal, or consistent with the American tradition, please know how very wrong they are.