Football vs. Congress: When in doubt, punt

Friday - 9/27/2013, 2:00am EDT

Washington's 0-and-3 football team (with the copyrighted name some dare not pronounce) ought to arrange a match with the U.S. Senate. Or a team from the House. Our slightly better-paid hometown heroes would almost surely prevail. And we could use a win.

For the rest of the nation, the sight of a senator (your least favorite Republican or Democrat) getting slightly sacked could be a crowd pleaser. Meantime, until that matchup...

The good news, maybe, for federal workers and others who feared the government might shut down next Tuesday, is that Congress may punt.

The potential good news is that instead of a shutdown on Oct. 1, the shutdown — and possibly the start of a new recession — may be delayed until Oct. 17.

Something similar happened in April 2011. Congress acted at the last minute (about one hour before the shutdown was to begin) by approving a stopgap spending bill.

The magic new date, if the timeline holds, is when the Treasury Department says the government will have reached its debt-ceiling (borrowing) limit. According to the media, Uncle Sam will be down to his last $30 billion. If the amount of money our government borrows isn't raised, there will really be a shutdown.

The stumbling block is the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — which Congress previously approved, although most members and most Americans don't understand exactly what it means. Except that some think it is great and will greatly improve the nation's health, while others think it will hurt business and turn some full-time workers into part-timers.

For the past couple of weeks, agencies have been dusting off or revising shutdown plans. Since agency budgets haven't (again) been approved by Congress, nonessential functions must shutdown Tuesday. And nonessential employees will have to be furloughed without pay. That is, unless Congress approves a pending continuing resolution that would allow agencies to keep on keeping on until sometime in December. When the issue would crop up again.

Now there is a move to punt: To take the defunding language out of the House-passed CR, and defer action on it and link it to the debt limit is debated and voted on. That, if it happens, would buy agencies more time and guarantee nonessential federal workers another full biweekly paycheck.

Delaying the shutdown deadline could also revive (temporarily) the suddenly sagging stock market. It is up 20 percent for the year but this week, as the Oct. 1 shutdown drew nearer, it dropped each trading day as Wall Street got the jitters.

Some economists (and a lot of politicians) have said that a shutdown could hurt the economic recovery and that a failure to raise the debt limit could plunge the nation back into recession, result in higher interest rates and hurt the all-important housing market.

Politicians of both parties have been using the threat of a shutdown to advance their cause or, in hopes that it if it happened, the guys on the other team would get the blame.

In the past, more often than not, the party that controlled Congress (usually the Republicans) has lost the PR war each time there is a shutdown. But public disgust and mistrust of Congress seems to be at an all-time high (as in low) and it could be that both sides want to delay the Oct. 1 showdown while they regroup.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Stress can rewire the brain making pleasant scents — such as the smell of baking bread — "malodorous," according to an article in the Journal of Neuroscience.

(Source: ScienceDaily)


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