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Posted at 10:54 AM ET, 02/24/2011

Did John Boehner accidentally make a shutdown more likely?

By Ezra Klein


John Boehner got some plaudits -- including from me -- for permitting an open amendment process on the House spending bill. But as Jon Bernstein notes, that process may have had the unintended consequence of making a government shutdown much more likely:

When Republicans brought the funding bill to the House floor, Boehner allowed for the introduction of hundreds of amendments, instead of following the usual procedure of having the House Rules Committee screen out most amendments. For Republican members of the House, it was a great opportunity to fulfill campaign promises by authoring amendments, many of which were approved, on all sorts of policy issues. Indeed, instead of just raising or lowering spending levels for federal agencies, these amendments prohibit the government from using any funds to carry out laws that House Republicans don’t like. So, for example, the funding bill now tells the EPA that it cannot regulate greenhouse gases; it tells the FCC that it may not implement net-neutrality regulations; it cuts funding from Planned Parenthood; and, perhaps most critically, it blocks money needed to carry out health-care reform.

This means that, instead of sending the Senate a bill carefully tailored for a major budget fight, the House has delivered one containing a hodgepodge of policy fights. Consequently, it will be much harder to find common ground before time runs out to prevent a shutdown.

If the only question was about funding levels, which was always expected to be a battleground, then it’s doubtful a compromise would’ve been impossible. The budget debate might have gone to the brink, maybe even shutting the government down for a few days before a deal was reached. In theory, however, it’s just not that difficult to cut a deal between one side that wants X dollars and another side that wants Y dollars spent on, more or less, the same set of programs ... But, when it comes to the policy fights over health care reform, environmental regulations, Planned Parenthood, and other issues, there aren’t partial victories available. Democrats won’t give in, and House Republicans won’t either, at least not easily. To take just one example: If you’re a Republican congressman, once you’ve said that allowing funds to go to Planned Parenthood is basically just funding abortion (even if it’s not), how do you reconcile a “yes” vote on a compromise bill that allows funding for that organization?

Photo credit: By Alex Brandon/Associated Press

By Ezra Klein  | February 24, 2011; 10:54 AM ET
Categories:  Congress  
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Republicans should ask themselves who they think the public trusts more- Obama or Boehner. Because when the government shuts down, they're going to be comparing the reasonable President with Mr. "Hell No."

Enjoy your brief time in the majority.

Posted by: mschol17 | February 24, 2011 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Of course, some bloggers (ahem, like Ezra) praised Boehner for opening the floor for all sorts of amendments. Fact is that he tried to turn a continuing resolution into a fiscal year budget because we don't one, half-way into the fiscal year. And we don't have one because we still can't agree on one. It's now too late. Just stop the irresponsible madness and pass a continuing resolution that has minimal changes from the last budget. That's what a continuing resolution means--continuing.

Posted by: pjro | February 24, 2011 12:04 PM | Report abuse

The leaders will make a deal and everything undesired will just be dropped in conference.

Posted by: Hopeful9 | February 24, 2011 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Any chance of getting a post on this??

Thanks in advance!

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 24, 2011 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Klein: Appropriating funds to Planned Parenthood (an oxymoron if there ever was one) doesn't fund/subsidize abortions??

Your parents didn't raise you very well. My adopted twins (I'm glad their birth mother didn't kill them) learned, at the tender age of five, that money is fungible.

Posted by: ElmerStoup | February 24, 2011 9:15 PM | Report abuse

John Boehner out golfing. Sarah Palin plans to speak on global leadership in India. Newt upset because he can't hide from his past hypocrisies. Boehner plays with golf balls on a green full of grass as voters in the United States suffer; Unemployment, wars overseas, anger in Washington D.C. and now he is playing golf with lobbyist.

Thomas Chi

Posted by: ThomasChi | February 25, 2011 1:57 AM | Report abuse

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