Tad DeHaven

As it stands, Democrats are willing to fund those portions of the government that require annual appropriations at $986 billion (on an annualized basis), which is essentially the same figure that the House GOP proposed. On the downside, because that figure originally proposed by the GOP would still be above that which the still-in-effect sequestration would allow for the new fiscal year ($967 billion), the stage would be set for another round of wailing and gnashing of teeth over the mandatory cuts in January.

January is a relatively long time away, however, and other issues will need to be addressed first. According to the Office of Management and Budget, the $16.7 trillion statutory debt ceiling will need to be raised by October 17th. In fact, there is growing sentiment on the Hill that a resolution of the government shutdown will involve a resolution of the rapidly approaching debt limit issue. Seemingly grinding its gears in their multiple attempts to extract concessions from Democrats in exchange for opening the government, it is hard for this analyst to envision a scenario in which the GOP will be able to extract anything of substance from the Democratic opposition on the debt limit front either.

That would be a shame if true because the federal government’s long-term financial situation remains bleak. The president and his Democratic allies in Congress appear intent on relying on the conventional belief that the GOP will be blamed for any negative repercussions associated with both the government shutdown and a potential breach of the debt limit. It is true that congressional Republicans are lacking in sincerity when it comes to reining in the size and scope of the federal government. It is also true that that the GOP’s lack of sincerity is paired with a woeful inability to articulate to the public even a semi-coherent case for a smaller federal footprint. Regardless, the Democrats’ continued insistence on a “what, me worry?” posture on the federal government’s fiscal future should be viewed as more disconcerting than the current government (non)-shutdown.

Tad DeHaven

Tad DeHaven is a budget analyst at the Cato Institute. Previously he was a deputy director of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget. DeHaven also worked as a budget policy advisor to Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Tom Coburn (R-OK).