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The Showdown to the Shutdown

March 7th, 2011

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First, Congress has to pass a budget for the remainder of 2011. The Republican-controlled House has already passed a 2011 budget with $61 billion in spending cuts. It’s a non-starter in the Democratic Senate.

A few weeks later, Congress has to vote on whether to raise the debt limit. Or else put the full faith and credit of the United States at risk. Tea Party activists in Speaker John Boehner’s home district have already written Boehner a letter warning him that “raising the debt ceiling is in direct conflict with the platform that you and the Republicans in Congress ran on in November.”

Later this year, Congress will have to pass a budget for fiscal year 2012, which begins in October 2011. Third showdown, same issues.

It looks like a government shutdown is three times as likely as it was in 1995. What’s different about 2011? Mainly, the personalities. For one thing, John Boehner is not Newt Gingrich. For another thing, Barack Obama is not Bill Clinton. Gingrich and Clinton were warriors – free-wheeling, sometimes reckless, willing to lead the troops into battle. Boehner and Obama are presenting themselves as conciliators trying to restrain the troops from drifting into war.

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