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Could Shutdown Go Beyond October 17?

October 4, 2013

As the week has gone on, there has been a growing realization that the shutdown was unlikely to be settled in a day or two, as many of us had hoped. Instead,  a consensus has emerged that the need to raise the debt limit (deadline: October 17) and the passage of the Continuing Resolution (CR) were likely to merge into one issue with one resolution.

Under that scenario, the government might remain closed for about 2½ weeks, but there was still an end in sight. There was always a large unknown in this, since putting debt limit and CR/shutdown into one bucket doesn’t answer the question: what deal would it take to resolve the governmental crisis?

Now, even 2½ weeks may not be a realistic target. Here’s why:

Yesterday afternoon (Thursday), House Speaker Boehner reportedly told colleagues that he would not let the U.S. government default on its debt. As reported by the New York Times, this implicitly raises the possibility that avoiding a default might require working with House Democrats, even though such a bill would divide the Republican caucus. Although the Speaker has done this three times before, there is  no indication of a specific plan at this time, just reports of what the Speaker has said informally to others.

In speculating on this, it is potentially relevant that Speaker Boehner has been reiterating his commitment to the House position on the CR (i.e., including the shutdown). If he works with Democrats to lift the debt limit without a quid pro quo, he will need to reassure the Republican caucus that he will not do the same on the CR impasse and government shutdown. In that case, debt limit and CR may be merged for the moment — and some resolution achieved within the next 2 weeks. However, failing that, the debt ceiling may be decoupled from the CR and passed before its deadline. If that were to occur, the government shutdown may well go beyond October 17.

Note: This analysis and commentary is written by Steven Grossman, the Deputy Executive Director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA.

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