The clock keeps ticking as Democrats and Republicans wrangle over a spending bill that will keep the government functioning though 2012. If no solution can be agreed to by midnight Friday, parts of the government will be forced to shut down. The Republicans released a 1,200 page, $1 trillion omnibus spending bill late Wednesday night which Democrats have vowed to defeat. In a press conference Thursday morning, House Speaker John Boehner said he felt "confident" the Republican measure would be approved; however, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi rejected the bill, warning that Democrats would not cooperate with Republicans.
"Politicians have taken it to the brink," says The Daily Ticker's Aaron Task in the attached clip. "Both sides are equally guilty of playing politics."
Washington has come this close to shutting down several times this year. Republicans and Democrats have given up little ground on policy and budgetary matters and partisan bickering this time not only impacts government workers and agencies, but could lead to a tax increase on all Americans.
The center of contention is the extension of the payroll tax cut -- something both sides purportedly want to continue, but have deadlocked on how to pay for the tax break. Democrats originally suggested a tax hike on those making more than $1 million dollars a year but retracted the position because of Republican intransigence.
The payroll tax cut affects 160 million Americans and is scheduled to expire at the end of the year. Obama has touted the economic benefits of the cut, which puts on average an extra $1,00o in Americans' pockets. Republicans proposed a payroll-tax package that was passed in a 234-194 vote on Wednesday, but it will be likely stalled in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, told reporters on Wednesday that "the bill passed by House Republicans tonight is a pointless partisan exercise. The bill is dead on arrival in the Senate. It was dead before it got to the Senate." Democrats oppose the provisions attached to the Republican bill, such as the easing of certain air pollution rules for industrial boilers and incinerators, fast-tracking the development of the Keystone XL pipeline, freezing federal employee pay through 2013, preventing a deep cut in Medicare payments to doctors and cutting more than $20 billion from Obama's healthcare plan.
Furthermore, Republicans want to slash unemployment benefits to 59 weeks from 99 weeks. The most controversial aspect of their platform: requiring drug testing for those receiving unemployment insurance.
"This is a ridiculous game of chicken," Henry Blodget tells Aaron. "It's just a clown show." As Henry points out, Obama and GOP leaders will come to some sort of compromise to prevent the government from closing, but until then, Democrats and Republicans will publicly dig in their heels, attack each other's proposals and create a sense of panic that could have been entirely avoided.