Analysis: On budget impasse, little political will
Veterans of the 1995 Clinton/Gingrich shutdown say they see some ways out of this situation that could enable congressional Republicans and Democrats and the White House to reopen the government and save face.
The scenarios would require a will that players in this drama have thus far not shown. Here are some of the options:
Republicans in the House relent and allow a clean short-term continuing resolution to fund the government - without provisions to defund or kill the Affordable Care Act - to reach the floor for a vote.
But House Speaker John A. Boehner (R., Ohio) thus far has resisted putting a clean funding plan on the floor. To do so, without getting something tangible in return, could further splinter the House Republican caucus, jeopardize Boehner's speakership, and prompt primary election challenges from tea party and conservative candidates against Republicans who support a clean spending measure, according to political analysts.
"As in '95, it's about politics, people's egos and power," said Ray LaHood (R., Ill.), who was in the House during the 1995 shutdown and left Congress to become President Obama's first-term transportation secretary. LaHood said Obama has to make it worth Boehner's while to move a clean spending plan. One way of doing that is guaranteeing serious talks with Republicans about the health-care law, he said.
Approve short-term spending measures for certain agencies. This would buy Republicans and the White House time to iron out their differences while keeping some key government agencies operating. The Republican-controlled House has tried - and failed - to push through mini spending measures to reopen the National Park Service, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and other agencies. The White House rejected the overtures as "piecemeal efforts."
Revisit a "grand bargain." Instead of just focusing on a short-term spending deal, Republican s leaders and Obama should go long and pursue a multitrillion-dollar package of spending cuts and tax increases that would include revamping the tax code, addressing entitlement programs, and altering or replacing the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration.
Obama and Boehner couldn't consummate a grand bargain proposal in 2011. But Robert Bixby, executive director of the bipartisan Concord Coalition, believes the shutdown and Washington's functioning from fiscal crisis to fiscal crisis might make a longer-term big deal more enticing.