President Barack Obama has received nothing but good news on the signature foreign-policy item on the congressional agenda this month.
But his successes in persuading enough Democratic senators to support the Iranian nuclear deal may actually complicate things on the domestic front.
That’s the argument of Stan Collender, a top federal budget expert who has worked on both the House and Senate Budget Committees. Collender now puts the odds of a shutdown at 67% – up from 60% before Congress’ month-long recess.
The federal government will shut down on Oct. 1 if Congress does not pass a spending bill to keep the government funded. They have 12 scheduled legislative days to avoid a second shutdown in three years.
Congressional Republicans and President Barack Obama had already been at impasse over spending levels for both military and domestic programs. And rebellious Republicans are gearing up for a fight over funding for Planned Parenthood, the women’s health and family-planning organization that has come under intense scrutiny amid the release of controversial undercover videos.
Collender argues that the developments on the Iran deal will make the ongoing budget negotiations more complicated, as Republican opponents try to derail the deal through any possible means:
“The continuing resolution will provide those senators and representatives against the deal with a second bite of the disapproval apple.
“Because the CR will include appropriations for all cabinet departments, it’s very likely – if not almost certain – that there will be at least one attempt in the House and Senate to include language that prevents from using any of the funds to implement the deal.
“That’s not to say this proposed language will survive, but the process will further slow down a debate on the CR that already was pushing against the time limit.”
- Thomson Reuters
The debate over Iran, Collender says, will lead to even more intense partisan vigor in Congress around the spending bill. And all of that heated debate obscures the “big budget issue” – which is the disagreement between the parties over military and domestic spending.
Obama and Democrats want to increase spending beyond the agreed-upon caps of the 2011 budget sequester, while most Republicans want to lift only military spending while making further cuts on the domestic side. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday that Obama will not support legislation that “locks in those sequester caps that neglect our economic and national-security priorities.”
“I’m not sure if it’s going to come to that,” Earnest said when asked if Obama would veto legislation that doesn’t lift the budget caps, effectively leading to a shutdown. “But the president’s position on this has been very clear – that he will not sign into law a budget bill that will lock in sequester levels of spending.”
Resolving this agreement in a matter of days, with several of them dedicated to the Iran debate and Pope Francis’ visit to Washington later this month, is akin to “pulling a rabbit out of a hat,” Collender says.
Other analysts have provided a more optimistic look at the budget negotiations. Greg Valliere, the chief political strategist at the Potomac Research Group, puts the odds at 30%.
And Republican leaders, most notably House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) have pledged to avoid a shutdown, citing the lingering damage from the 17-day shutdown in 2013 that hurt the Republican Party’s brand with independent and moderate voters. For his part, McConnell seemed to concede last week that defunding Planned Parenthood would have to wait until a theoretical Republican president takes office in 2017.
But that may be easier said than done.
“The wild political climate makes deal-making risky for Boehner and Mitch McConnell,” Valliere said. “They have pledged to avoid a shut-down, and they probably will succeed – but virtually every Republican running for president will excoriate Boehner if he gets a budget deal, because the only way that will happen is for him to get plenty of votes from Nancy Pelosi’s troops. That would be a gift from God for Donald Trump and other GOP candidates, who would blast ‘weak leadership,’ when in fact the leadership simply doesn’t have the votes.”