By changing it's rules yesterday to prevent filibusters on executive branch and judicial nominees (other than the Supreme Court) -- the so-called nuclear option -- the Senate further complicated a federal budget debate that was already overly complicated and had little chance of success.
Although it's still less likely than likely, the prospects for a government shutdown in January increased significantly. Based on yesterday's action, I have increased the possibility that funding for the federal government will not be adopted by the time the current continuing resolution expires to 40 percent.
And the likelihood for sequestration to occur as scheduled in mid-January also jumped significantly.
1. In general terms, the federal budget debate in recent years has always been more emotional than rational and far more political than substantive. The emotions and politics were significantly ramped up yesterday.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) pretty much got what he wanted from week 1 of The Great Shutdown of 2013. Boehner demonstrated to his caucus what he was willing to do for it -- allow the government to be shutdown -- and it seems to be very appreciative of his efforts.
For that matter, the White House and congressional Democrats also got what they wanted in week 1. The White House and House and Senate Ds held firm to their no negotiating strategy and appear to be more unified than they've been in years. And the polls showed that, as expected but hardly guaranteed, it is the GOP rather than the Democrats that are being increasingly blamed for the shutdown.
All sides are now in a better position to cut a deal. Boehner, President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have all now amply demonstrated to their respective constituencies that they are indeed the hard asses they wanted them to be. All of the leader are, therefore, are in a better position to convince their colleagues that a shutdown-ending deal is acceptable.
All government shutdown-concerned eyes yesterday seemed to be on the two meetings that took place at the White House. Financial company CEOs met with the president in the morning and congressional leaders in the late afternoon.
But the real shutdown news was being made in Connecticut, where United Technologies announced that it would furlough 2000 workers each of the next two weeks if the shutdown continues.
The reason these nonfederal workers will stop being paid? Because the Defense Contract Management Agency is closed and its inspectors aren't available to review the Black Hawk helicopters the company is making for the Pentagon.
If they happen, the layoffs will occur in Stratford, Connecticut; West Palm Beach, Florida, and Troy, Alabama.
This is exactly the kind of news that will rapidly change the politics of the shutdown and make it easier/mandatory for a member of Congress who so far has supported the shutdown or refused to admit defeat to insist the government be reopened.
I'm not sure whether this makes me laugh, cry or wince.
1. House Republicans refused all year to appoint conferees on the fiscal 2014 budget resolution.
2. Senate Democrats tried multiple times to pass a motion requesting a conference with the House on the 2014 budget resolution, but Senate Republicans each time prevented it from happening.
3. Late yesterday, the roles completely reversed. House Republicans requested to go to conference with the Senate on a 2014 continuing resolution that's needed in part because the two houses were unable to conference on the budget resolution, but Senate Democrats said they will not agree to the House request.
The popular and far more dramatic term used by the media and elected officials to describe what happens when new funding for an agency or department isn't enacted before the existing funding expires is "shutdown."
But the technical term used by federal budget geeks is "lapse in appropriations." That's what's happening now: Appropriations have lapsed.
Although almost everyone has focused on the lapses that occurred in 1995 and 1996, they actually occurred a number of times in the 1970s and 1980s.
You haven't heard much about them for several reasons:
1. Most of these lapses were short or happened over a weekend. They were barely noticed at the time and are not memorable now.
2. The lapses were not typically government-wide. Instead, they only happened to one or two agencies or departments.