Behind the Scenes in the Battle Over the Budget

September 29, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
NewsHour Political Editor Christina Bellantoni talks to Hari Sreenivasan about what's currently happening behind the scenes in Washington and what we can expect from both sides in the battle over the possible government shutdown.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So where does it all go from here? To offer her insights we’re joined from Washington by The NewsHour ‘s political editor Christina Bellantoni.

So Christina while we’ve seen all the talk on the Sunday morning shows what’s happening behind the scenes, if anything.

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI:  There’s not whole lot happening behind the scenes. Leadership in both parties are not really having conversations with the White House.  All weekend this was more an issuing of statements back and forth. The President had a veto threat of what the House passed Saturday night, very late in the evening. And Harry Reid the Senate Majority Leader said they absolutely will not accept what the House passed. So everyone is waiting for the Senate to return to Washington and come in to session at 2:00.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So what happens at 2:00? First let’s start first with the Senate, then the House and even maybe the White House.

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI:   What Harry Reid will do is formalize what he was saying all weekend, which is that they will not accept any changes to the President’s health care law. There are really three things that the House did on Saturday night the Senate will be able to dispatch of those through a couple procedural votes, even though there’s Republican support for a few of them and even though House Republicans are saying that some Senate Democrats may be able to support some of the changes to the health care law. That’s not going to happen.

So then you end up having the Senate pass a bill that allows troops to get continue to get paychecks in the event of a government shutdown. Everybody says that is very likely to pass  to protect the troops. And, then you are going to probably have them send yet another bill to fund the government back to the House. Meanwhile the clock continues to tick.  There will only be ten hours left until a shutdown when the Senate comes in.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, say a shutdown happens how does Congress get over it? How do they undo it? How do they create  some sort of a stop-gap measure?

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI:  There’s not a lot they can do. They could pass a new bill that maybe funds the government for a few days or a week. Again, you keep hearing this term “clean continuing resolution.” That would mean it doesn’t have any policy attached it is just a matter of funding the government to keep it open. There’s not a lot of interest in doing that because there’s so little time, so they want to work something out. It’s a pretty short-term bill. The House passed a measure that would fund the government through December 15, the Senate’s measure that they passed on Friday would only fund it through November 15.  So they are going to keep having these arguments about the fundamental philosophies behind funding the government.

HARI SREENIVASAN: How does this tie in to the debt ceiling. We’ve got other deadline in mid-October that is much earlier than these November and December deadlines that these guys are talking about.

What House Speaker John Boehner really wanted here was to use that argument, the debt ceiling argument, to negotiate with the President about a bigger series of cuts, about changes to the President’s health care law, delaying it. And his conservative members really saw what Senator Ted Cruz was able to door on the Senate floor and generate a lot of national attention and really capitalize on some of the anti-health care sentiment out in the nation.  And so they said no, this is our moment – let’s have this fight here. So they really want to take it up to the brink and even possibly shut the government down, as we’re talking about, in this fight.

In that debt ceiling fight they that will happen no matter what – the government will reach that debt ceiling onOctober 17 – they are trying to attach other things to it.  The President says he won’t negotiate there; the Republicans are trying to call his bluff and saying “well, you’ve negotiated with us previously on this same issue.”

HARI SREENIVASAN: So this comes down to a couple central characters. Where does this leave the President and also where does this leave John Boehner?

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI:  I think that you’ll probably hear from the President by Monday. He’s going to be again saying that he doesn’t support what the House has done. He’s going to be saying the Senate is the one that passed the bill that he supports that just funds the government and takes care of basic services.

John Boehner is going to have to make yet another decision. Does he put this quote unquote clean continuing resolution to fund the government before his membership and hope that the Democrats will join him supporting this and avoid a government shutdown. It’s not impossible for this to happen before midnight on Monday. But it’s less and less likely.

HARI SREENIVASAN: What are you hearing from staffers? Are they optimistic that something can be worked out or are they just enjoying a beautiful Sunday and saying “this is going to be a horrible Monday.”

Everyone is working around the clock on this. They are trying to have some solution. There are a lot of talking points going back and forth.  The bottom line is a lot of Capitol Hill staffers  won’t be paid they will be able to be forced on furloughs. There are going to be a lot of things happening in Washington, D.C. that affect the way they do their jobs.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Christina Bellantoni thanks so much.