WASHINGTON -- With no end in sight to the partial government shutdown, the prevailing questions across the country are when and how does this bad movie end?
Veterans of the 1995 Clinton/Gingrich shutdown say they see some ways out of this seemingly intractable situation that could enable congressional Republicans, Democrats and the White House to reopen the government and save face without the perception that each totally caved in to the other sides demands.
None of the scenarios are easy, they say, and would require a will that players in this drama have thus far not shown. Former Rep. Jim Nussle, an Iowa Republican and House Budget Committee chairman who was lieutenant to then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., is in a pool guessing when the shutdown will end. He declined to reveal his estimate, other than to say its lengthy.
Given the current hand . . . I will tell you that this is as challenging as Ive ever seen, said Nussle, who also served as the director of the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush. We have people in Washington who are really good at getting attention, not at governing.
But they have to do something. Here are some of the options:
Republicans in the House of Representatives relent and allow a clean short-term continuing resolution to fund the government without provisions to defund or kill the Affordable Care Act to reach the floor for a vote.
In the House, the magic number to passage is 217, and it appears that a clean funding bill could reach that powered by at least 19 votes from moderate Republicans and old bulls in the party who have grown tired of their tea party colleagues.
The willing Republican moderates include Reps. Bill Young of Florida, Peter King and Michael Grimm of New York, Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania and Devin Nunes of California.
If youve got 30 to 40 Republicans who arent willing to open the government, then its up to the Republican leadership to find votes to open the government, said Ray LaHood, a former Republican House member from Illinois. Essentially, it will come down to the idea that there are a majority of the 435 members of the House that want the government open.
But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, thus far has resisted putting a clean funding plan on the floor. To do so, without getting something tangible in return, could further splinter the House Republican caucus, jeopardize Boehners speakership, and prompt primary election challenges from tea party and conservative candidates against Republicans who support a clean spending measure, according to political analysts.
As in 95, its about politics, peoples egos and power, said LaHood, who was in the House during the 1995 shutdown and left Congress to become President Barack Obamas first-term transportation secretary.
LaHood said Obama has to make it worth Boehners while to move a clean spending plan. One way of doing that is guaranteeing serious talks with Republicans about the health care law, he said.
But Republicans have to come to the table with some serious ideas on how to fix it, not kill it, LaHood said. Thats the way forward.
However, that proposal could be fraught with political risk for Obama, whos maintained a no negotiation stance during the shutdown. A perceived shift could alienate Capitol Hill Democrats and the partys voters ahead of next years congressional elections.