Late last night, Harry Reid’s plan to get the federal government funded through the end of the fiscal year went up in flames, burning months and months of work by Senate appropriators and their staffs. To avert a government shutdown, Reid agreed to work out a federal funding plan with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — Congress will agree to continue funding the government at its current levels through some yet-to-be-determined point next year. The “continuing resolution” will likely pass the Senate in a blink, the lights will stay on, and then they can move on to other priorities: The DREAM Act, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, and START.
Here’s how last night’s melodrama impacts policy and the politics on Capitol Hill:Now that the tax cut package is passed, and the gridlock over funding the government has (mostly) been broken, the stage is set for Dems to revisit other key priorities in the Senate’s final days.
Earlier this month, Republicans linked arms and vowed to block debate on all legislative items until the tax and spending impasses had been bridged. Now that they have been, Republicans who had been blocking Dem agenda items in solidarity with their leadership will be free to vote their consciences — and several of them say they want to vote to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
On Saturday morning, Reid will put this to a test, starting with a test vote on the DREAM Act. However, even with taxes and spending taken care of, Democratic aides expect that DREAM will not be able to overcome a GOP filibuster with the requisite 60 votes. If it does: great. DREAM would be on a glide path to passage, after which Reid could take up DADT repeal next week. But assuming Democrats are right, DREAM will have to be shelved until Democratic majorities rise again, and they’ll move on to repealing DADT.
That filibuster is expected to be broken, which sets DADT up to be repealed as early as Saturday, as late as Monday, depending on the largesse of people like Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, who can gum up the works a bit more even if DADT repeal gets 60 votes.
Once those items are checked off, it’s back to START, which will require a two-thirds majority to be ratified.
Next year, though, this arrangement will come back to haunt Dems. In the next day or two, Reid and McConnell will agree on a date through which to extend federal spending. Whatever date they decide will be the deadline for resolving the next spending fight, which will occur in a dramatically different, and more conservative political environment. Republicans will demand spending cuts. And if they’re successful, the stimulative impact of the just-passed tax package will be clawed back.