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A Government Shutdown Is Still Possible, Chuck Schumer Warns

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 2/11/2015 Sam Stein
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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Monday signed a budget deal that sets government spending levels and raises the debt ceiling until well after he leaves office.

In theory, his signature should bring to an end to the high-drama standoffs that have characterized the Obama years since Republicans took control of the House in 2010. But on Capitol Hill, there was already talk about the possibility of a government shutdown in mid-December.

That’s because, while the deal Obama signed establishes spending levels, it does not preclude Republicans from attaching controversial policy riders when it comes time to actually fill out the specifics of what will be funded.

“There may be a shutdown. The hard right, it depends on their interaction with [House Speaker Paul] Ryan, they may demand a shutdown,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told The Huffington Post in an interview on Friday. “It won’t be over the numbers. We won that fight. We won it big. It would be over the riders.”

In the scenario Schumer envisions, House and/or Senate Republicans could refuse to pass an omnibus spending bill that included funding for Planned Parenthood, or they might insist on repealing parts or all of the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation passed in 2010. Democrats would balk at either maneuver. Newly elected House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) wouldn't want to overrun the conservatives in his conference in his first major showdown and, presto, the current spending agreement expires and the government shuts down.

Ryan, for his part, refused to rule out an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood during an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, suggesting that he was willing to let the amendment process play out.

"Are we going to let Congress work its will and have amendments come through the process, and have regular order where we have conference committees? Yes, by not controlling the process so tightly held here in the speakership, by letting it go forward -- I don't know what the outcome's going to be,” he said.

Still, Ryan appears unlikely to cede to the conservatives who want their new leader to open up the legislative process and pick fights with Obama. He voted for the budget deal during the House vote on Wednesday, despite telling reporters earlier that the negotiation process "stinks."

“That’s the $64,000 question. The real question is … what issues are left?” Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) said last week, wondering what issues the conservative House Freedom Caucus could test Ryan on, given that the budget deal had passed.

The pressures of the ongoing presidential campaign, however, could end up persuading conservatives on Capitol Hill to use the mid-December deadline for funding the government as leverage, as Mulvaney hinted last week. And should that happen, Schumer says, Democrats would be unified in opposition, emboldened in part by their recent victory of getting spending levels set through the deal signed Monday.

"I think we will win the fight, more so now after winning this part of the fight and all the tumult in the Republican caucus," Schumer said. "The public is beginning to see how crazy they are."

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