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Is a Government Shutdown Ahead?

Will there be a government shutdown on Oct. 1? Yes, it's a ways off, but it's a date you should keep in mind as the debate over oil drilling continues on Capitol Hill.

Current law includes a ban on opening more offshore territory to oil and gas exploration, and that ban expires Sept. 30. Typically, Congress renews the ban each year on the annual Interior appropriations bill. But no one expects an Interior spending measure for fiscal 2009 to be signed into law this year. Instead, the current betting is that government spending through at least the beginning of next year will be covered by a "continuing resolution" that the House and Senate will pass and Bush will sign before Congress leaves town for the year, which is currently scheduled to happen Sept. 26.

So if supporters of the offshore drilling ban want it to continue, they'll have to attach it to the CR. And Republicans won't allow that to happen without a fight.

"The moratorium on offshore drilling expires on Sept. 30th," House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said today. "What we're saying is that we ought to allow it to expire, and if Democrats want to reinstitute the ban, they'll do so at their own peril."

But how far will Republicans go? If a CR isn't signed into law by Sept. 30, the federal government will shut down on Oct. 1, the first day of the next fiscal year. Will the GOP risk such a move over the drilling ban? Boehner wouldn't quite bite on that question, saying: "I think it's an important issue and we'll have a lot more to say about it in September."

Just about anyone over the age of 12 likely remembers the last time the federal government closed for business in late 2005 and the beginning of 2006. President Clinton faced off with congressional Republicans over spending levels and legislative priorities in a host of appropriations bills. After much angst and trading of blame, Republicans essentially blinked, as the majority of the public blamed them rather than Clinton for images of shuttered offices and idle workers.

The question for Republicans in 2008 is whether the politics of a potential shutdown have shifted in their favor. Polls do show that a majority of the public wants more land opened to oil drilling, and the GOP may be gaining traction by blaming Democrats for blocking it. But at the same time, a showdown over the CR won't just be a referendum on whether to drill offshore. It will also be a debate Democrats will frame as about whether Republicans are willing to cut off government services for the elderly, children, puppies and any other innocent bystanders you can think of.

So will Republicans risk facing that charge to force a change in drilling policy? And would President Bush back them up by refusing to sign a CR that includes a drilling ban? We're exactly two months from knowing the definitive answers to those questions. Stay tuned, and just to be safe, start hoarding candles and canned goods.

By Ben Pershing  |  July 31, 2008; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  Agenda , Branch vs. Branch  
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Clinton Was not president in 2005

Posted by: john | July 31, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

The last government shut down referred to in this post actually occurred in late 1995 and early 1996.

Posted by: Robin | July 31, 2008 1:55 PM | Report abuse

For background on government shutdowns, see this short, easy-to-read report, Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Effects, and Process:

Posted by: A Reader | July 31, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Correction, please?

Posted by: Another reader | July 31, 2008 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Perfect! Shut down Homeland Security first! Then shut down the red light, speed, and surveillance cameras! End home invasions by racist cops who shoot dogs! Smash the Trinidad checkpoints! Re-open Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House! End the bunker mentality! Trust the American people again! Dismantle the security-military-industrial complex! Expose the machinations of Halliburton, Bechtel, and The Carlyle Group! Yeagh!

Posted by: Yeagh! | July 31, 2008 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Another example of the sordid nature of politics. However, this type of gutter level governing is much better than a situation like that being perpetrated by the Administration, i.e. quietly replacing judges, including the Attorney General, department heads (FEMA), Military Commanders, the EPA, etc. ad nauseum with their own idealogical BUT totally unqualified cronies.

Posted by: Lu Franklin | July 31, 2008 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Let's get our dates right Ben. This isn't the Washington Times!

Posted by: Logan303 | July 31, 2008 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Bill Clinton was not president in 2005-2006.Washington Post needs a few proof readers.

Posted by: Fred Loell | July 31, 2008 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Good idea, Republicans. Shut down the government to benefit your big-oil buddies. The main problem is there is not much benefit to offshore drilling for the American benefit in the short-term and just a slight boast in oil production in the future. The American people need to be apprised of just how little offshore drilling offers. Still, I'd support offshore drilling, but individual states must be allowed to make their own decisions. There may be enough oil there to get people back into their SUVs, which is just what the doctor ordered.

I worked as a contractor at a FHWA facility in the DC area and I remember the Republicans shutting the government down back then (1995 or so). They took a political beating and caved. This election looks pretty dismal for Republicans, so I expect they will not shut the government down. In fact, they will not even give Bush (aka enfant terrible) the votes to support his potential veto. Of course, I wouldn't put money on it, because I don't think you can get rich betting against the irrationality of Republicans.

Yeagh, you are a dreamer. Those are nice dreams. But those things would be the last to go.

Posted by: ptgrunner | July 31, 2008 3:15 PM | Report abuse

"Just about anyone over the age of 12 likely remembers the last time the federal government closed for business in late 2005 and the beginning of 2006"

OK I'm 25 and I don't remember the government shutdown of "1995/1996" (not 2005/2006).

Must not have really affected me much as an 6th grader. I can't imaging that it affected a 1-year old that much either.

Posted by: Paul S | July 31, 2008 3:27 PM | Report abuse

If the government shuts down, are Bush and Cheney out of a job?

Might just be worth it.....

Posted by: Susan | July 31, 2008 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Just shut Bush and his rich oil cronies down. Also take Lou Dobbs and his revered miidle class gas guzzlers with them

Posted by: Mike T | July 31, 2008 3:58 PM | Report abuse

If only it would happen, even for a day but it won't. Congress is the biggest waste of America's money than any government program. It does nothing but attract attention by its open corruption, its inability to balance a budget, keep its nose out of other countries affairs, inability to offer up a meaningful law or solutions for this countries ills.

Posted by: John Shriver | August 1, 2008 8:56 AM | Report abuse

The Gov't shutdown in 1995 and people with jobs in the private sector never noticed. Congress and it's wasteful spending is why this Country is in the mess it's in now. We need it to shutdown for a few years.

Posted by: Frank | August 1, 2008 11:06 AM | Report abuse

I think Monica Lewinsky remembers the government shut down...

Posted by: Anonymous | August 1, 2008 12:22 PM | Report abuse

I have the strong impression that the oil companies are holding America hostage with high gas prices to force us to agree to off shore drilling. This is not a debate, this is more like an ultimatum.

Posted by: Jim West | August 1, 2008 5:44 PM | Report abuse

The Democrats are in control of Congress. They remeber the backlash against Republicans with the newly elected majority under Gingrich and Lott shut it down for a few days, costing them considerable good will. Seniors in particularly get enraged if their monthly checks get delayed a few days or more.

The Congress won't do that. Neither will Bush unless he is even more stupid than I think.

If they can't complete a budget on time, look for another continuing resolution. In an election year like this, that fight just isn't going to happen.

Rhe Iraq War funding doesn't even get challenged, largely because the Demcrats who oppose the war don't have the courage to challenge Bush's request for funding. They remeber the standooff in 1995, and know that despite wanting to make a statement on the War, they don't have the guts. A continuing resolution? who would budge? and especially in a presidential election year?

It ain't going to happen.

Posted by: KRitt | August 2, 2008 1:01 AM | Report abuse

I've been a rock ribbed Ronald Reagan Conservative, since I blew my 1st chance to vote, on that fully worthless & useless Jimmy Carter.

Since then, I've grown up, had my own family, & now, all my kids are Conservative & all the grown one's have worked for, & voted for, Conservatives every time, as early as possible!

Lately, we've been so disappointed with this bunch of weak kneed Leftist & Pelosi appeasing so called Republicans, last week I almost changed my party affiliation from GOP to Independent.

But this rousing late week GOP development finally gives me some new hope for the Conservative movement.

Perhaps, this small handful of GOP Representatives, that seem to have found their spines, this very courageous group, will help all the others find their spines too?!

Having just watched the broadcast news, I saw that not one of the liberal news readers of the so called "Main Stream Media", have bothered to cover this "Revolt" against Pelosi's Democrat tyranny.

So once again, it looks like it's going to be up to the rest of us, to help carry this flaming torch forward!

Conservative House Republicans, keep it up! Please, please, don't continue to let everything good about this country, what it has stood for, & shed blood for, be lost. At the hands of these ignorant Leftist fools!

I'm really so fed up with these Leftist goons, quoting Rep. Donald Manzullo, I "want our country back" too!

Posted by: Just Tex | August 2, 2008 1:07 AM | Report abuse

We have a huge "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil companies are sitting on leases and it is often left to the smaller oil companies to do most of the drilling and exploring. When a good play is found then Shell and Exxon swoop down and buy into it rather than using windfall profits to look for new fields. Exxon alone is sitting on 60 years of untapped leases. They are using fear and high prices to further their profits and extend their drilling rights. None of this will help the consumer, its all a money game.

Posted by: txajohnson | August 2, 2008 1:42 AM | Report abuse

how is that gas prices rose up to $4.00 level under the leadership of the LIBERALS. The Liberals want to control our way of life by putting us onto mass transit and other govt run programs. who are they to tell me what I can drive or ride in. case in point...L.A banning new fast foods restaurants for a year!!!! My choice to eat a big ole fat cheeseburger if I SO CHOOSE SO.

Posted by: DR | August 3, 2008 10:14 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: gao xia en | August 5, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the coverage, I just have a possible minor typo alert here: "Just about anyone over the age of 12 likely remembers the last time the federal government closed for business in late 2005 and the beginning of 2006. President Clinton faced off..."

Posted by: Chris | August 8, 2008 12:07 AM | Report abuse

McCain scared me before, but now I'm absolutely terrified of the man:
Republicans and miltary men on John McCain:
TPMtv: Dazed and Confused:

Posted by: rhonda | August 10, 2008 11:07 PM | Report abuse

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