We all know the phrase, “
is broken.” Washington
This week may just prove how accurate those words are.
If no budget resolution and payroll tax cut extension are passed by Congress by Friday evening, the President has ordered those federal executive departments affected to begin preparing for a shutdown. Déjà vu all over again, as we English speakers like to say.
The current Gunfight at OK Corral is playing out in the Senate. The GOP-controlled House has already passed a payroll tax cut bill and sent it to the Democrat-controlled Senate, which is refusing to consider it, or to sign and send to the White House a budget extension already passed. Not until the House amends its payroll tax cut bill to suit the Democrats in the Senate. The House, in turn, refuses to amend the payroll tax cut bill until the Senate signs and sends the budget extension to the President.
Got all that?
The Washington Post said of this affair, “Pretty much everybody in both parties wants both the spending bill and the payroll-tax cut to pass, yet they are unable to stop themselves from their usual, moronic brinkmanship, which now jeopardizes both items. Lawmakers had better hope that the 12 or so percent of Americans who still approve of Congress weren’t watching C-Span2 on Wednesday, because even that level of support would be in jeopardy.”
Here, without comment, is some of the ‘dialogue’ between Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid and GOP Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell yesterday, as reported by the Washington Post.
Reid - “Americans can’t understand the Republicans’ obstructionism. Republican leaders have spent weeks drumming up support for Tea Party legislation they knew was dead on arrival in the Senate.”
McConnell - “Our friends across the aisle have no plan and, some might suggest, no desire to pass a payroll tax cut extension. Instead, we’ve wasted week after week after week, one senseless show vote after another.”
Reid - “My friend is living in a world of non-reality. My friends on the other side of the aisle obviously want to have the government shut down. . . . That presumptive Republican nominee, Newt Gingrich, tried that once. It didn’t work so well.”
McConnell - “I’m not sure what the majority leader just said.”
Reid - “I don’t care what. . . Mitch McConnell says….Republicans are embarrassed.”
McConnell - “Speaking of embarrassment, in three years this Democrat Senate hasn’t passed a budget.”
Reid - “Talk about a diversion. My friend, the Republican leader, has talked from the very beginning of this Congress, his No. 1 goal is to defeat Obama for reelection. That’s not looking so good. Romney is stumbling.”
Finally, the two ‘leaders’ of the US Senate decided instead to have votes on two balanced-budget amendments to the Constitution, one proposed by Democrats, the other by Republicans. They both failed.
All this was going on because, according to the Washington Post, “Republican leaders charged Tuesday that the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid have instructed lawmakers who brokered the pact to withhold their final signatures from a report that would send the deal for a vote until votes are held on an extension of the payroll tax.”
Well, all that was yesterday. Today, calm has prevailed and GOP Senator McConnell said that after private discussions with House Speaker John Boehner and Reid, he is "confident and optimistic we'll be able to resolve both (bills) on a bipartisan basis."
One compromise apparently offered by the Senate Democrats is dropping their demand for a surtax on income over $1 million to cover the cost of keeping the payroll tax lower for another year. And, House Republicans announced they would hold a vote Friday on their version of a nearly $1 trillion spending bill to keep federal agencies, ranging from the Defense Department and Homeland Security to labor, environment and education agencies, operating through the fiscal year that expires on Sept. 30, 2012.
An extension of long-term unemployment benefits that are set to start expiring early next year is also now expected to be approved.
President Obama's temporary payroll tax cut, first enacted a year ago, would be extended for another year at a cost of about $120 billion. Lawmakers are negotiating over how to cover those lost revenues and not add to budget deficits that have been more than $1 trillion annually during the three years of the Obama administration. Republicans have questioned the effectiveness of the tax cut but have supported its extension, while also proposing some controversial add-ons that Democrats object to.
One of those add-ons, quick approval of the Canada-U.S. Keystone XL oil pipeline over Obama's objections, could be negotiated away in a compromise deal, but that was still unclear because it is not certain that Speaker Boehner can find enough Republican votes in the House to pass a payroll tax cut measure without the Keystone pipeline provision.
So, there you have it.
Just one more fun-and-games day on the
While the rest of the country is mired in uncertainty and wonders if anyone in
even cares that they exist, except on voting day. Washington