The government is a few days away from shutting down, and a few weeks away from maxing out its credit. It's yet another in a long series of legislative logjams. Has polarization between the political parties reached a new high. Or maybe a new low?
In this week's Friday Flashback, our weekly analysis of the news, we'll chew on the reality and absurdity behind the Congressional battle over the budget and the national debt. We're joined by Nancy Cook, politics and economics reporter for National Journal and NPR political reporter Ken Rudin.
We begin with a status update on the budget negotiations. The Senate is expected to vote, probably in this hour, on a budget bill that is significantly different than the one passed a week ago in the House. What's the latest?
The House bill would have funded the government until December 15, but the Senate bill trims that back a month. What's the reason for that?
If the Senate approves this budget bill — a continuing resolution in the local lingo — it has to go back to the House.Is it anybody's guess as to what might happen then?
Will the House Speaker, John Boehner have to depend on some Democratic votes if he wants to get a bill passed and avoid a shutdown?
What are the chances the government shuts down on Tuesday, and how long might it be before Congress can agree on even a short-term funding plan?
The key issue in all this, for many Republicans, is the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Polls consistently show it's not popular, even though people are wildly supportive of some parts of it, like the ban on refusing to insure people with pre-existing conditions.
The White House line has been something like this : you're already benefiting from Obamacare, but you just don't know it." Clearly not a very effective sales pitch. How could the administration have done a better job selling Obamacare?
The political arguments against Obamacare have made it sound like the coming of the Black Plague. Key to the GOP opposition is that Obamacare is a job-killing economic crippler, but the White House has a pretty good political argument against trying it to funding the government.
Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas, made some waves this week. What is he doing? It's no surprise that Cruz has angered Democrats, but he's irking Republicans, too. Even very conservative Republicans.
You now have veteran politicians on both sides of the aisle saying they've never seen this level of polarization and vitriol. Which brings us to the next stop on the Congressional crisis calendar. The debt ceiling, and the possibility the country could default on its sovereign debt. Is this going to happen, and if not, how will Congress work out a deal to avoid it?