Zero Chance

September 23, 2013 - 4:46 AM

Here we go again. Like the Voice o' Doom during the trailer for an upcoming horror movie, we are being told again and again that we are facing the end of the political, fiscal, and monetary world if we get into a government shutdown situation next week.

I am not in favor of shutting down the government. I am not in favor of the government exceeding the debt limit. I am not in favor of defunding Obamacare without a fully developed replacement in the same bill.

I am also not in favor of the U.S. Congress working a few days every month and claiming it cannot get to things like passing a single appropriation bill for the new fiscal year that begins on October first.

We are still in the "sequester," which you will remember was the off-the-cliff threat to cut government spending more-or-less willy-nilly if the Members of the House and Senate couldn't get together on long-term spending cuts.

They couldn't, so the "draconian" cuts went into effect. Every time a street light goes out it is blamed on the sequestered funds. As nearly as I can personally tell the only effect of the sequester is the TSA cut open lines at Reagan National Airport down to one to make people trying to get onto airplanes to visit their grandchildren have to wait longer and aggravate more.

The Defense Department warned that its capabilities would be "hollowed out" by the sequester, but apparently the hole isn't so large that we can't keep war-making assets off the coast of Syria for an indefinite time.

According to the Washington Post, "The sequester was originally passed as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA), better known as the debt ceiling compromise."

Oh, yes. The debt ceiling compromise. Like the one they don't appear to be heading for in mid-October when the Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, thinks the national debt will bump its head on the ceiling.

Jack Lew, lest this be lost to history, was the guy who originally proposed the sequester route when he was White House Chief of Staff. It has had no effect.

As no appropriations bills, according to the Library of Congress, have been adopted we are back in the all-too-familiar territory of needing the Congress to pass, and the President to sign, what is called a "Continuing Resolution" known as a CR inside the Beltway.

That is a spending package - typically a short-term package of several months - that keeps the government operating while the House and Senate, in between days off, try to figure out how to spend our money even faster until the end of the next fiscal year.

The House, on Friday, passed a CR to fund operations through December 15, but attached language defunding ObamaCare. Only two Democrats, Utah Rep. Jim Matheson and North Carolina Rep. Mike McIntyre, voted with the GOP Members to pass the bill. One Republican, Scott Rigell (Va.) voted against. The vote was 230-189.

One of the hopes is that in the Senate, Majority Leader will have to bring the bill to the floor and make Democratic Senators running for re-election in Red or Purple states, cast a vote on ObamaCare.

Assuming defunding ObamaCare fails in the Senate, an amended CR will be walked across the Capitol Rotunda, and sent back to the House floor where Speaker John Boehner and company will have, one assumes, some plan involved to put it back in.

But, clock is ticking and at midnight on September 30, if no agreement is reached, the money runs out and the government, effectively stops operating.

Thus, the shut down.

I know what you're saying: Don't pay Members of the House or Senate until they get this done.

The 27th Amendment to the Constitution reads: "No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened."

That Amendment was conceived to forbid Congress giving itself a raise without having to explain it to voters; but it works the other way, too: Congress' salary cannot be decreased without an intervening election.

But, here's what we can do. Demand they stop traveling on our dime - not just to the Paris Air Show, but home for a week long break out for ever two or three weeks that they work until they pass the appropriations bills and deal with the debt ceiling.

And, we should demand that the President stay off the golf course and at least pretend to be interested in trying to help fix this horribly broken system.

Chances of either one happening? Zero.

On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: The Library of Congress' tally of Appropriations Bills, the origin of the phrase "draconian cuts," the bio of Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, and the Washington Post's Q&A on the sequester. Also a puzzling Mullfoto from MSNBC's studio last week.