Sequester spending cuts may be in jeopardy as shutdown enters another week

Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell

Modifying or changing ObamaCare doesn’t even seem to be a part of the conversation anymore as at least some congressional Republicans are now trying to ensure that the spending cuts passed in the Budget Control Act of 2011, which created the sequester, remain the law.

The weekend started with some promise as the White House signaled that President Barack Obama would sign a short-term debt limiting increase while House and Senate negotiators hammered out a larger budget deal. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) nixed the idea.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was willing to undo the sequester for a budget deal that enacted entitlement reforms, which are the real drivers of federal spending. That, like other House-backed proposals, was shot down by the White House and the Senate. The devil will be in the details on this, of course, as President Obama and Democrats will likely want tax hikes to supplement changes to entitlement programs, making the path to a deal very rocky.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) had put together a potential deal, working with a handful of Senate Democrats, to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling. But the deal was rejected after Reid balked at the spending levels.

Senate Democrats want discretionary spending levels set at $1.058 trillion, while the House-passed budget set them at $988 trillion, which is still $21 billion higher than the level set by the Budget Control Act, which was passed over two years ago with broad bipartisan support and signed by President Obama.

It’s now on Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to come to some sort of an agreement, as House leaders aren’t in the discussion at this point. The clock is ticking on the debt ceiling, as the Treasury Department will reach the statutory limit at some point on Thursday.

House Republicans may pass a six-week extension of the debt ceiling early this week, though it won’t be a “clean” increase, apparently just to have it there as a fall back should the discussions between Reid and McConnell breakdown.

Changes or delays to ObamaCare aren’t even being discussed any longer by most Republicans as that ship has largely sailed. Republicans now find themselves in a bind where preserving sequester-level spending, which many fiscal conservatives feel is the best thing to happen in Washington in years, may be one of the biggest accomplishments they get out of any budget and/or debt ceiling deal.

That may not be enough to appease the conservative base of the party.

Other Shutdown News

Americans Favor Divided Government: Despite the complaints about the failures of Congress and the White House to get along, Americans still favor divided government over single-party control, 28/25, while 38% say that it makes no difference.

Nate Silver Doubts Political Blowback for Shutdown: The political numbers guru says that the media is overestimating the political impact of the government shutdown and notes that Democrats “face extremely unfavorable conditions” in their quest to retake control of the House.

Noble Laurate Doubts Debt Ceiling Panic: Vernon Smith, an economist and winner of the Nobel Prize, told Reason magazine that failing to raise the debt ceiling “will not be a catastrophe.”

Defund ObamaCare Push was Never Going Anywhere: So says Peter Suderman, a healthcare policy analyst and opponent of ObamaCare. “This was a blown opportunity. But it was more than that. It was a blown opportunity that could have been, should have been, and indeed was foreseen,” wrote Suderman at Reason on Friday.

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