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Congress: A Tale of Two Parties

Here’s our write-up of the latest NBC/WSJ poll: “As negotiators in Congress squabble over the size and scope of spending cuts for the remainder of the fiscal year, Democrats and Republicans outside the Beltway differ dramatically in how they want their leaders to handle the budget stalemate… In a contrast that illustrates why the standoff has pushed the federal government to the verge of a shutdown, the poll finds an overwhelming majority of Democrats wanting the leaders of their party in Congress to compromise, and a majority of Republicans wanting theirs to stand firm.”

The Wall Street Journal’s take: “Republican lawmakers are caught between the demands of their conservative base insisting they hold their ground on deep budget cuts and the wishes of political independents they will need in the 2012 election who are pressing for compromise.” 

The New York Times says the budget stalemate is a test for both President Obama and Speaker Boehner. “The outcome will help determine whether Mr. Boehner is leading his party or following the demands of the Tea Party movement. For Mr. Obama, it is the biggest test yet of whether he can reposition himself as a pragmatic leader who can recapture the political center and keep liberals sufficiently energized to help him win re-election.”

Here’s a breakdown of what could be affected if the government shuts down. Your taxes, however, would still be due on time (this year, that’s April 18.)

The Boston Globe’s editorial page: “The elephant in the room in the struggle to avoid a disastrous government shutdown is that there are, in fact, two elephants in the room: Republican congressional leaders, who are seeking meaningful concessions from President Obama, and the Republican Tea Party wing that is trying to use the budget to roll back government.” Its suggestion: Boehner “and other mainstream conservative” should cut a deal. “[I]t’s hard to see how a DC implosion would be a win for House Republicans. It’s clear that they’re the holdouts — the ones proudly refusing to bend — even though they are only one-third of the constitutional law-making process,” the paper writes.

And: [T]he Tea Party wing has instead chosen to chew up valuable time with assaults on tiny line items that offend their anti-government ideology — from birth control to PBS programs to AmeriCorps volunteering. Taken together, these items don’t amount to a single bean, let alone a hill of beans, in a budget of which 88 percent is devoted to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and defense. It’s blatantly false advertising to suggest that discretionary items like Planned Parenthood have anything more than a token bearing on the deficit.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is circulating a letter indicating he will not take a salary if the government shuts down, something he’s calling a “No Budget, No Pay” pledge. “I will forego my federal salary until we reach an agreement,” he writes. “I will donate my salary to charity or return it to the Treasury until the government works again… The bottom line is this: I can’t imagine that the President, Vice President or any Member of Congress – Republican or Democrat – thinks they should get paid when the government has shut down.”

“Partisan divisions hardened yesterday as Republicans began pushing a $3.5 trillion 2012 federal budget through a House committee, with backers calling it a sobering correction for the nation’s spending binge and critics labeling it an assault on health programs for retirees and the poor,” AP reports.

“Senate Democrats yesterday defeated a Republican effort to ban the Environmental Protection Agency from controlling the gases blamed for global warming,” AP reports.