Budget talks between the Dems and Republicans for this fiscal year appear to be foundering, with a government shutdown on Friday appearing to be a distinct possibility. The President and the Speaker had dueling press availabilities today, and the tone did not look promising. The numbers have moved in so many different directions ($33billion, $61billion, $100 billion) that it is hard to keep up. It truly does appear to me that Speaker Boehner just cannot get control of his caucus and give the Dems a real number to work off of. The goalposts keep getting moved by the Speaker in response to the shifting sands inside his own caucus.
A major issue that the Republicans seem to be unable to come to grips with is that of the policy riders attached to their bill. While the Speaker has insisted all along that the Republican goal was to “cut spending” he has stated that the “riders” attached, which attack programs based on ideological opposition, must be in a final bill. That really is a non-starter and I have to believe that Speaker Boehner knows that. It just appears to an outsider that a good portion of the Republican caucus would rather shut it down rather than compromise. I have never heard of a negotiation where one side says that everything we want is non-negotiable. That is not negotiation as I understand it.
Now the Republicans point to certain facts that, while true, have no bearing on the ultimate outcome of this negotiation.
1) The Democrats could have passed a budget while they had control of both Houses. True, but irrelevant. That is something that Democrats can kick themselves over, but it certainly has no bearing on getting a budget put together for the balance of this year.
2) Speaker Boehner keeps saying that the House has passed a bill, but the Senate has not. The negotiations have centered around the House budget, and certainly that factoid favors Republicans. The lack of a Senate bill means nothing in terms of producing a bill that keeps the government open. What is needed is not a Senate bill, but a bill that can pass the Senate. That can only come from a negotiated settlement where nobody gets EVERYTHING that they want.
Republican adults are in short supply so far. Lets hope they sober up before Friday. And with the Paul Ryan budget now out this battle has to be considered the undercard to the main event.