Government workers and contractors are wondering if they’ll be coming to work on Monday—or if they’ll be applying for unemployment benefits. Time is nearly up for Congress and President Obama to come up with a plan to keep the government running past midnight tonight. Several meetings between the president, House Speaker John Boehner, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have moved the process along but failed to produce an agreement. Reid has said Democrats and Republicans are “very close on the cuts and how we make them. The only things—I repeat, the only things—holding up an agreement are women’s health and clean air.” [See a slide show of 10 effects of a government shutdown.]
Republicans insist the biggest differences are not about the policy riders. "The largest issue is spending cuts," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told reporters this morning. "The American people want to cut spending to help the private create sector jobs—and the Democrats that run Washington don't."
The so-called policy riders Reid is referring to include politically-charged cuts that would defund Planned Parenthood and block funding for the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. “These matters have no place on a budget bill,” Reid argued. Both sides in Congress have been blaming each other for stalling a solution.
U.S. News blogger Jamie Stiehm, like Reid, blames Republicans. “Let me tell you, those House Republicans are awfully sore winners,” she writes, noting that already, “they pinned the president down to $33 billion in budget cuts, which Barack Obama meekly agreed to. Now they want deeper cuts into the body politic.” [Check out a roundup of political cartoons about the budget and the deficit.]
Some say they would blame the president for lack of leadership, and U.S. News blogger Peter Roff would hold Obama responsible for a potential shutdown because of his threat to veto the short-term funding measure (which also contains controversial policy riders) which the House passed this week which would keep the government open for seven more days, fund the military through the end of the fiscal year, and make additional cuts to spending. “In short, that means President Obama is prepared and willing to shut the government down,” Roff writes.
Others blame the Tea Party inside and outside of Congress. A recent Pew Research Center poll finds that people who agree with the Tea Party prefer a shutdown over giving in on the budget, and at a rally this week, activists chanted “shut it down.”
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Previously: Will the government shut down?