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Quigley: Government shutdown seems unavoidable

U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley | Sun-Times Library

U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley | Sun-Times Library

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Updated: October 23, 2013 6:47AM

WASHINGTON — “Most members are convinced we probably will shut down for a day or two and there won’t be much you can do about it,” a glum Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) is telling me.

We’re talking about the looming Sept. 30 deadline for Congress to approve a temporary funding measure to prevent most of the federal government from shutting down the next day.

It’s not clear how this latest installment in the long-running story of Washington dysfunction will end.

A few hours before we talked Friday, Quigley was on the House floor when the GOP-run House on a 230-189 roll call passed a resolution continuing to fund government at current levels through Dec. 15 and defunding ObamaCare. The vote was along party lines.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) backed it to satisfy his Tea Party faction, even though every lawmaker knew before the vote the ObamaCare defunding poisoned the measure so it stands no chance of becoming law.

“There was a sense of foreboding” on the House floor, Quigley said. “That this will not end well. Boehner’s caucus is a multi-headed monster.”

There are 30 to 50 lawmakers who are part of the informal congressional Tea Party faction, depending on various counts. What we are seeing playing out now in Congress is what James Madison wrote about in the Federalist Papers in 1787: a “tyranny of the minority.”

“There are two methods of curing the mischiefs of faction: the one, by removing its causes; the other, by controlling its effects,” Madison wrote.

I think we are trending toward the “controlling its effects” option.

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will start a series of procedural moves that will end up with the Democratic-run Senate stripping the ObamaCare defunding language from the funding bill. The process could take most of the week.

There could be twists and turns along the way in the coming days. The Tea Party tactics have caused dissent within the GOP family.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) have labeled the Tea Party shutdown threat over ObamaCare “irrational.”

One of the unknowns is whether next week, freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) — one of the leading Tea Party senators and a potential 2016 presidential candidate — will make good on his filibuster threat. If he goes that path, Cruz faces a takedown: Senate Democrats will easily find enough Senate Republicans for the 60 votes needed to make the funding resolution veto-proof.In the coming days, the Senate will send back to the House its “clean” continuing resolution to keep government open.

Boehner will have a few choices, none great from his perspective.

He may decide to break the so-called “Hastert Rule,” named after former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), which demands no bill goes to the floor without the support of the majority of the majority. If Boehner goes that route, he will end up passing a resolution mainly with Democratic votes.

Meanwhile, the Office of Management and Budget last Monday sent a memo to federal agencies to prepare for a shutdown — just in case.

OMB deputy director Brian Deese, at a Thursday briefing, stressed the outreach the White House has been doing and continues to do on Capitol Hill.

But first, there is a “conversation going on in the Republican Party right now they need to sort out,” Deese said.

If there is some deal to be made — and more time is needed to get it done — lawmakers could simply agree to pass a resolution to push the Sept. 30 deadline back a few days — or weeks or months.

House members were not supposed to be in session the week of Sept. 23. Quigley had been set to leave Saturday on an official congressional delegation trip to China. Now House members will be debating raising the debt limit, the next controversy waiting to happen while the Senate works on funding.

I asked Quigley why he was so glum. Said Quigley: “This make us look bad. This is bad for our country, our government and our economy.”


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