THE BLOG

How We Got to 'Shutdown'

10/01/2013 04:48 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

What do we do now? House Republicans passed legislation funding the federal government at its present level and defunding Obamacare. The Democrat-controlled Senate refused to pass that legislation. No one expected the Senate to vote to repeal Obamacare just three years after they voted it into existence on party lines.

Then the House Republicans passed a second Continuing Resolution (CR) that funds the federal government at its present level and delays the start of much of Obamacare for one year and strips out the Obama tax on medical devices. Some thought the Senate Democrats might be willing to delay -- not end -- Obamacare to avoid having a rocky start in early 2014 and cost Democrats seats in November 2014. But Democrats voted along party lines to reject the House CR.

Then the House Republicans once again passed a CR that would delay the individual mandate that will force some Americans to buy Obamacare insurance and ended the Obama OPM ruling that gave some in Washington/congressional staff special privileges when it came to Obamacare. Reid had his Senate Democrats vote no again.

What now? Good Question. Who knows.

It might pay to back up and think through how we got here. That might shed some light on what both parties are willing to do to pass a continuing resolution and a debt ceiling increase.

This "gridlock" or "stalemate" or "partisan bickering" did not start this week. The president came into office in January 2009 with a super majority Democrat control in the House and Senate. He could pass any bill he wanted -- stimulus spending, banking regulation, Obamacare, taxes -- with just Democrat votes. He didn't have to talk to or meet with or be civil to Republicans. And he chose to pass on that opportunity.

The Democrat Senate run by Nevada's Harry Reid decided not to actually write or pass a budget in the years 2010, 2011, and 2012. Perhaps to avoid having vulnerable Democrats have to vote for a level of government spending that might be unhelpful in getting reelected. When the Republicans captured the House in 2010 they passed the Ryan budget in 2011 and 2012 that reforms welfare, entitlements and outlines tax reform.

In normal times the Republican House and Democrat Senate would meet in conference committees and hash out each budget. But that has not happened under Obama. There has been no compromising or negotiations or even civility. One of the president's key staffers in charge of White House/Congressional relations recently sat next to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp and embarrassingly did not know who he was.

Obama is only forced to work with or talk to House Republicans in one of two situations. First, when he wants to increase the debt ceiling because he has spent up to the legal debt ceiling. Second, to negotiate over and/or sign the budget. But since the Democrat Senate doesn't do budgets the president, House, and Senate only meet with each other when a Continuing Resolution is passed to keep spending on auto-pilot.

This is one of the last times the president will sit with or talk to House and Senate Republicans during his second term. Republicans who wish to delay Obamacare or reduce taxes have only these two windows of opportunity: the debt ceiling and the continuing resolution.

So everyone puts their hopes and fantasies in the possibility that their favorite measure might be attached to the "must pass" legislation of a debt ceiling or CR. Ted Cruz, the freshman Republican from Texas, told everyone he would make the Senate vote to repeal/defund Obamacare. He was not able to do that. Obama said he would close down the government if the Republicans didn't spend more money and break the sequester spending limits that Obama agreed to in August 2011. It is unlikely the Republicans would sacrifice their most significant legislative victory at the altar of more spending.

So the last train is leaving the station, the last plane is leaving Casablanca, the door in Sartre's "No Exit" is soon to close and both teams would like to win something big without sacrificing their crown jewel.

What will happen?

You are free to make any prediction you wish.