POLITICS
03/02/2011 05:28 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Government Shutdown Averted (For Now)

A stopgap budget measure was approved by the Senate on Wednesday and sent to President Barack Obama for final approval. The temporary fix will fund the federal government and prevent a shutdown for the next two weeks; however, what will happen beyond that point remains unclear.

The AP reports:

The Senate on Wednesday sent President Barack Obama a Republican-drafted stopgap funding bill that trims $4 billion from the budget, completing hastily processed legislation designed to keep partisan divisions from forcing a government shutdown.

Moments later, Obama called on congressional leader to meet with top administration figures including Vice President Joe Biden to discuss a longer-term measure to fund the government through Sept. 30.

But achieving common ground may be no easy task. House Republicans recently advanced a controversial budget proposal in the lower congressional chamber that only added fuel to the fire in an already contentious debate. Obama issuing a veto threat over the measure only heightened concerns of a government shutdown.

On Wednesday, the president addressed the ongoing budget battle once again with the next stage of the fiscal showdown set to unfold.

"We can find common ground on a budget that makes sure we are living within our means," he said. "This agreement should be bipartisan, it should be free of any party's social or political agenda, and it should be reached without delay."

Meanwhile, Republicans signaled the ball rests on the Democratic side of the court. The AP reports:

Congressional Republicans said it's up to Democrats to offer an alternative to carry into the talks. They have yet to produce one to respond to a $1.2 trillion omnibus spending measure that passed the House last month.

"The House position is perfectly clear. We cut $100 billion off the president's request for this fiscal year," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "We have no clue where our colleagues on the Senate side are."

As for where the public stands on the issue, Reuters reports on a new poll on whether Americans see a potential shutdown as a positive or negative thing:

The Quinnipiac University survey of nearly 2,000 registered voters found 46 percent said a government shutdown would be a good thing versus 44 percent who said that it would be bad.

The was within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points.

Despite the numbers, what a government shutdown could look like wouldn't be a pretty picture. The Washington Post recently reported:

If President Obama and congressional Republicans fail to agree soon on how to fund the final seven months of the fiscal year, some veterans might not receive benefits checks and other Americans would be unable to apply for Social Security. The State Department might not issue new passports, unemployment statistics would not publish as scheduled, museums and national parks would close, and worse -- piles of elephant manure might pile up in a National Zoo parking lot because workers can't ship it away for composting.

HuffPost's Howard Fineman recently reported on what may be at stake politically:

Still, the likelihood is that the Republicans will lose politically if there is a shutdown. First, it's clear that many of them want one, whatever their leaders say. Some of them will celebrate it on the floor of the House if it happens. They won't be able to help themselves.

The 80 or so first-year Tea Party types in the House are as eager as college protesters taking over the Ad Building a generation ago. They want to shut the place down as an act of protest against what they regard -- not entirely without reason -- as a runaway, run-amok government.
....
And they would be shutting things down in the name of some cuts that it will be easy enough for the president and his Democratic allies to cry havoc about: cuts to the FBI, state and local law enforcement, and the Food and Drug Administration, just to name three.

So while members of congress were successful in passing a measure to keep the federal government open through March 18, it remains to be seen whether a longer-term deal can be struck between Republicans and the White House. Only time will tell if lawmakers averted a government shutdown on Wednesday, or whether one has only been averted for now.