Will Republicans shut down the government?

Update: Here’s more on mountaintop removal regulation possibly taking a central role in the potential budget shutdown. On CNN this morning, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said environmental issues are taking the forefront in the contentious budget talks. Though the focus has been on a rider to strip the EPA of the authority to regulate greenhouse gases, Conrad suggests that the mountaintop removal amendments – including one offered by W.Va. Rep. David McKinley – may be playing a role, too.

“Curiously enough, mountaintop mining was put on the table late in the game. Who knew that was going to lead to the shutdown of the federal government?” Conrad said. [end update]

Or not [end second update]

And a deal is reached.[end last update]

It’s looking more and more like a compromise won’t be reached and the federal government will shut down at midnight tonight. If that happens, there will be lots of finger-pointing. Republicans will try to blame Democrats; Democrats will try to blame Republicans, etc.

But if you look at the timeline of the dispute, it becomes clear that Democrats have been compromising – as their supporters and independents think they should – all along, agreeing to far greater cuts than they believe are wise. Republicans, on the other hand, not only haven’t been compromising, they’re now demanding more cuts than they were at the beginning. This, too, is what their supporters think they should be doing – though independents think both Democrats and Republicans should compromise to avoid a shutdown.

But from all indications, this is no longer about spending. When Republicans passed their funding plan for the rest of the year, they included several riders addressing ideological issues – they want to cut all funding for Planned Parenthood, monkey with the Clean Air Act, stop efforts to rein in mountaintop removal mining. Democrats have agreed to $38 billion in cuts for the rest of the fiscal year, which matches a deal Republicans reportedly offered earlier in the week, but Republicans continue to insist that some of these riders also be approved.

According to Sen. Harry Reid, a rider defunding Planned Parenthood is the main sticking point, though I’ve heard from a good source that riders stripping the EPA of some authority over mountaintop removal mining regulation are back in play after Republicans got enormous pushback on the Clean Air Act rider.

Speaker of the House John Boehner insists the deadlock is only about spending, but considering how far Democrats have come – they’re agreeing to more cuts now than Republicans initially asked for – that’s clearly not the case.

And that alone should make it clear where blame for a shutdown – if it occurs – lies. Republicans are holding the budget hostage to ideological goals they could try to pass through ordinary legislative means. Democrats have offered genuine compromises, only to be rebuffed.

If the government shuts down, make no mistake, it’s because Republicans offered no real choice.

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