Forbes reported Monday that the likelihood of a government shutdown in 2015 has jumped from 40 percent to 60 percent, meaning it is "more likely than not that a government shutdown will result from the craziness going on in Washington."
The news itself is not likely to surprise anyone as the nation gives a collective sigh over the legislative branch's inability to get its fiscal house in order. In fact, as lawmakers in both major parties have moved further and further to the ideological extremes, the threat of government shutdowns have become much more frequent.
"With the House already in recess until after Labor Day and the Senate about to leave town this week, all of the components that had led to my previous 40 percent estimate got worse. There’s now even less time – Congress will be in session only a handful of days before the fiscal year begins on October 1 – for the House and Senate to devote to appropriations. The leadership has already admitted that nothing has been decided about how to deal with this situation. In other words, this will be the kind of last minute, ad hoc decision that in the past has repeatedly failed and led to unwanted consequences…like a shutdown. In budget technical terms, the House and Senate leadership will be flying by the seat of its pants."
There are two main points of contention that can be the catalyst for at least a brief government shutdown heading into the new fiscal year:
- Military vs. domestic spending. Congressional Republicans insist on more funding for the Pentagon and less for domestic programs, departments, and agencies. Democrats in the House and Senate want more for both, and the White House has promised to veto a continuing resolution (CR) that increases defense spending and cuts domestic spending.
- Planned Parenthood. In the wake of a controversy surrounding leaked videos that show Planned Parenthood executives discussing costs for handling fetal tissue, many Republicans have responded by renewing calls to defund the organization. Along with threats to oppose any CR that continues the group's funding, 4 U.S. senators running for the GOP nomination will likely want to add leading the filibuster to block further funding to their campaign stump speeches and ads. In fact, appealing to primary base voters will be a priority for many lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle.
Even if cloture in invoked and the Senate adopts a CR with Planned Parenthood funding, it will still have to be compromised with the continuing resolution that comes from the far more socially conservative House Republican majority that is far less likely to accept it. In addition, a CR that doesn’t include funding for Planned Parenthood will be filibustered by Senate Democrats. And the White House has already promised to veto a continuing resolution that cuts funds for Planned Parenthood, and almost no one thinks the votes will exist in either house to override it even if the government closes down as a result.
In short, the budgetary battle in September will likely be intense and not very productive. With 2016 just around the corner, neither party wants to do anything that might upset base voters who will show up to vote in primary elections, an integral stage in the public election process.