Yesterday President Barack Obama invited the leader of both parties in both Chambers to the White House for a meeting about ending the shutdown and raising the debt ceiling, which must be done in the next two weeks. This morning, the government was still shut down.
One of the proposals to end the shutdown is a “clean” continuing resolution (CR), which would essentially provide the same amount of money for the government as last year, without any changes in policy. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said today that it would not work, since it would require all Democrats to vote for such a CR. A clean CR would keep automatic budget cuts, known as sequesters, in place, which liberal Democrats have pledged to fight.
Part of the problems with the clean CR solution is that it would violate the “Hastert Rule,” which states that the House leadership should a bill to a vote only if it enjoys the support of a majority of the majority. The Hastert Rule, which we have critiqued in the past, is named in honor of former Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, who denies that he originated it.
Despite the potential problems of the Hastert Rule, one of its quirks is that a bill that enjoys a wide consensus would satisfy it. If Washington would like to enact a stable solution to its fiscal problems, elected officials would need to reach a very wide-ranging consensus. They would have to come to a…wait for it…a…GRAND BARGAIN! It has been elusive in the past—see Bob Woodward’s The Price of Politics for more details—but some are wondering if that is the only viable solution.
And if a grand bargain doesn’t work, there is always divine intervention.