Congressional Budget Fight
There is much consternation in Congress over how members will manage to keep the government open past September and resolve a broader conflict over the rising national debt. A bill in the House would have continued Obama's sequester and made deep automatic budget cuts to the federal government. A Senate bill would have ended the sequester, restoring billions for housing, roads, and bridges.
Both approaches were rejected and now, as Congress has left town for a five-week summer break, the endless Washington budget war looms on. If the status quo remains, the government is set to shut down on October 1st. A few weeks after that, the Washington Post reports, "the Treasury will face the risk of default unless Congress can agree to raise the [current] $16.7 trillion federal debt limit."
President Obama has called for pairing more tax revenue - favored by Democrats - with cuts to federal health and retirement benefits - favored by Republicans. Obama has also called for an end to the sequester and new funding for infrastructure and jobs.
Many Republicans have resisted that approach, arguing that ending the sequester, part of a bipartisan deal to raise the federal debt limit in 2011, would end their only victory in the fight to shrink big government. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has stated any vote to ignore the sequester "will be widely viewed throughout the country [as if] we're walking away from a bipartisan commitment ... to reduce $2.1 trillion in spending over the next 10 years."
Some Republicans, on the other hand, such as House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY), have demanded an end to the sequester as being "unrealistic and ill-conceived."
One group of GOP lawmakers, dubbed "the Diners Club," (eight Senate Republicans from the 24 who had dinner with Obama earlier this year) has met regularly with White House chief ofstaff Denis McDonough. McDonough also has met several times with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) in what has been called Obama's attempt to open the lines of communication in an effort to break the deadlock at the top.
The Diners Club is made up of Sens. John McCain (AZ), Lindsey O. Graham (SC), Kelly Ayotte (NH), Bob Corker (TN), Johnny Isakson (GA), Daniel Coats (IN), Ronald H. Johnson (WI), and John Hoeven (ND). Opinions vary on whether the Diners Club will be successful in averting another fiscal cliff.