Today is Columbus Day (if you are in South Dakota, this is Native American Day) so much of the government (Feds and state) is REALLY closed, as are many other companies. But this is Day 14 of the Republican Shutdown and here is the state of the government as I understand it:
- Obamacare is alive and no longer a GOP hostage
- The Government is still shutdown and the GOP wants to keep it as a hostage
- The debt Ceiling has not been raised and is still a GOP hostage — although there are plenty of noises this morning looking to raise the debt ceiling
- Various Federal parks or monuments are opening using state funds, and good luck getting those back from this Congress.
You will have heard today that the Senate Democrats are now making demands of their own in the talks to restore the government and to lift the debt ceiling and those demands are around sequestration. What will be tough to hear from reporters is that the majority of sequestration demands are largely about avoiding the 2014 round of sequestration. Not so much about eliminating them, but not letting dumb cuts just get dumber.
Collins’ bill funds the government at sequestration levels. And even though Senate Democrats had already passed a bill funding the government at sequestration levels for six weeks, six months, they decided, is too long. Six months would mean allowing sequestration’s 2014 cuts to trigger.
Democrats really, really hate sequestration. And they believe it will be much worse in 2014 than it was in 2013. It would be going too far to say they have a plan for stopping it. But they believe that agreeing to it for six months means giving up on stopping it.
Agreeing to it for six weeks, however, means there’s an opportunity to revisit it in a month-and-a-half. Democrats hope the Republican leadership will, by that time, be so terrified of another shutdown that they’ll be eager to cut some kind of deal.
And if they’re not? Senate Democrats admit they’re not going to shut down the government over sequestration. But maybe the Tea Party will force another government shutdown, further wounding Republicans in 2014. Or maybe there’ll be another short-term CR, which will mean another chance to revisit sequestration a few weeks later.
As Democrats see it, with sequestration in place, spending isn’t going any lower. So they may as well set up as many opportunities as possible to push it higher.
What the report makes clear is that the current Republican obsession with attacking programs that benefit Americans in need, ranging from food stamps to Obamacare, isn’t about some philosophical commitment to small government, still less worries about incentive effects and implicit marginal tax rates. It’s about anxiety over a changing America — the multiracial, multicultural society we’re becoming — and anger that Democrats are taking Their Money and giving it to Those People. In other words, it’s still race after all these years.
One irony here is that at this point it’s the liberals who believe in America, while the conservatives don’t. I believe in our ability to change while retaining our essential nature; I believe that today’s immigrants will be incorporated into the fabric of our society, just as Italian and Jewish immigrants — once regarded as fundamentally incompatible with American ways — became “white” by the middle of the 20th century.
There was a major (and really early) blizzard in the upper midwest last week — resulting in the death of much livestock. This is the kind of emergency the USDA helps normally helps ranchers with, except they are largely shut down. Senator John Thune tours some of the devastation and calls for the deployment of USDA staff from a government he has been voting to shut down.