Lawmakers See Shutdown Stalemate ‘Merging’ with Debt-Ceiling Brawl

Washington and its iconic monuments likely will remain closed for much of October, lawmakers made clear on Tuesday (John T. Bennett / Defense News)

Take the over. That’s your correspondent’s advice for your office’s shutdown pool.

Tuesday was an unscheduled operational pause for your Defense News congressional scribe, but I kept the magic box tuned to C-SPAN and cable news so you didn’t have to, loyal Intercepts reader.

And what I heard from lawmaker after lawmaker — members of both parties and both chambers — was the rarest of commodities one can find right now in Washington: A consensus. Democrats and Republicans expect the government to remain closed for weeks.

That means heartburn and maybe even some drastic decisions are ahead for small and medium defense contractors who have been waiting on that big Army, Navy or Air Force contract on which they depend to keep the lights on and the paychecks going out.

As Tuesday began to jump the tracks, there was House Republican Conference Deputy Whip Tom Cole of Oklahoma on MSNBC:

“I think this is now merging into the debt ceiling fight frankly. [A continuing resolution] is only part of it. Perhaps we can get short-term CR and then have a much larger deal that would give us budget stability which is where I think we ought to go.”

There was Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois on CNN repeating his party’s mantra that they will not bring to a vote on the Senate floor another CR that seeks to defund or substantially alter Obamacare. That is the primary thrust of House Republicans, and the root of the current stalemate that has shut down the federal government

Back to MSNBC after handling some business. There was Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., an Appropriations Committee member:

“The challenge, though, is that resolving the conferenceable issues in our budget could take weeks or months.”

And, most ominously, were dueling news conferences by House and Senate leaders, each side making clear they’re digging in on the issues that led to the shutdown — while also gearing up for what promises to be a nasty debt-ceiling fight.

Over on C-SPAN there was House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., the party’s 2012 vice presidential candidate, telling reporters Washington’s current crisis is likely to last until its next one kicks into high gear:

“We have a debt limit coming. That debt limit is coming in about two weeks. Most budget agreements in the past have always involved debt limit increases. We think that’s the forcing mechanism, just like the Budget Control Act that President Obama signed before, or like Bowles-Simpson, or like Gramm- Rudman, or like the 1997 or 1990 budget agreement, all of those budget agreements came together because of debt limits. That’s what we think will be the forcing action to bring us — the two parties together. Our goal and motivation here is to get a budget agreement, and we think this is a way to do that.”

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett