Questions and answers about the government shutdown.
What’s going on right now?
Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are on the cusp of a deal to reopen the government — which has been partially shut down for two weeks — and avoid breaching a Thursday deadline to raise the federal debt ceiling.
When will they announce the deal?
If all goes well, Tuesday.
What would the deal involve?
Things were still in flux Monday night, but it looked likely to have five main parts:
●It will immediately reopen the government and fund it through Jan. 15.
●It will immediately raise the debt limit through Feb. 15.
●It will require additional safeguards to ensure that people who receive federal subsidies to purchase health insurance under the new health-care law are eligible to receive them.
●It will delay for two years the health-care law’s “belly button tax” — a roughly
$63-per-person insurance tax that would have affected labor unions and big employers.
●It will set up a negotiating committee to come up with a longer-term budget plan so that we don’t go through this again early next year. The committee will be expected to issue recommendations by Dec. 13, and should it fail, agencies would have more flexibility to implement the deep spending cuts from sequestration.
When would the government open and the crisis be over?
As soon as Congress passes the deal and President Obama signs it.
When will the deal pass the Senate?
As soon as Tuesday if all senators agree. If a single senator refuses to allow an immediate vote on the measure, it could take several days.
Will the deal pass the House?
Hard to say. If House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) allows a quick vote, it could happen anytime, probably with the support of most Democrats and a substantial number of Republicans. If House Republicans delay or seek to amend the Senate bill, it could take longer.
How long do lawmakers have to get the deal done?
Thursday is the day when the government no longer can borrow money and basically will be running on fumes.
After the debt-ceiling deadline is breached, the Treasury Department might have to delay or suspend Social Security checks, food stamps and tens of billions of dollars in other payments.
It could take a few days, or maybe a week or two, but soon enough there would be major problems.
The Treasury would have only daily tax receipts to pay for the government — which amount to only 70 cents for every dollar of federal spending over the next month. And that could cause financial market chaos and a recession.
So precisely when does Congress have to act to make sure all those bad things don’t happen?
The sooner the better, but we don’t have an absolute fixed date. Federal finances tend to be unpredictable. Markets could freak out at any time.
Assuming this deal makes it through, who won and who lost?
Hard to say for sure, but if this budget agreement holds, it seems pretty clear in the first round of the budget wars that Obama and the Democrats will have outmaneuvered their Republican opponents.
House Republicans decided to shut down the government in hopes of major changes to the health-care law. None are in the offing.
Senate Republicans reluctantly went along with that strategy — at least for a while. In the meantime, the GOP brand was badly beaten up in the polls.
Prognosticators say that Republicans could have a hard time winning the Senate in 2014 — even though the electoral map is stacked against the Democrats. But the House still looks safe for the GOP.
Meanwhile, Obama and the Democrats basically stayed firm to their view that they would not pay a “ransom” to accomplish what they consider the basic tasks of keeping the government open and raising the debt limit.
So is it all wonderful for Obama and Democrats?
Nope! The truth is that for all the drama, they’re getting little out of this deal. They don’t roll back the deep spending cuts known as sequester — a policy that is eating away at domestic priorities such as education and research and development. They don’t get new money to spend on jobs or an immigration bill.
Once this crisis is over, what happens next?
Well, per the likely agreement, Republicans and Democrats would assign lawmakers to a conference committee to hash out a broader budget plan for the coming year.
For Democrats and Republicans alike, the basic question will be whether they find a way to roll back the sequester, which is set to begin a new round of budget cuts in January.
Democrats hate the sequester, because it’s the opposite of the vision of domestic investment they’ve long campaigned on. Republicans are more ambivalent, but many in the GOP don’t like how deeply it cuts Pentagon spending.
The most likely path to replacing part of the sequester is to make cuts to mandatory spending — like health care or farm subsidies — instead. Republicans and Democrats agree that’s better to cut, but mandatory spending has entrenched constituencies such as the elderly or farmers.
A bigger budget deal — the elusive “grand bargain” — could also be considered as part of the conference. But any discussion of significant changes to mandatory spending usually leads Democrats to insist on new taxes, which has been a deal breaker for the GOP.
What happens if the budget conference fails to come to an agreement and we’re back in January with new deadlines?
Most likely, neither side will want a new fight over government funding or the debt ceiling with the 2014 midterm elections fast approaching. So they’ll just extend everything once again, leaving (albeit more flexible) sequester cuts in place, and the voters will decide what they want come November.