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Congress: Girding for a shutdown

The Boston Globe’s six-column banner front-page headline: “Nation girds for a shutdown.”

The Hill’s headline: “Brinkmanship and traded barbs in the shadow of a shutdown.”

The New York Times on the outstanding differences: “The two sides appeared to be only a few billion dollars apart on the level of spending to be approved for the balance of this year, a relatively small gap in a $3.5 trillion budget. Negotiations appeared to be hung up mostly over Republican demands to tighten restrictions on financing for abortions and to limit environmental regulations, and by Mr. Boehner’s desire to squeeze every dollar in cuts out of the Democrats that he could.”

“Senate Democrats are likely to try to pass a short-term spending bill of their own if Majority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama fail to reach a breakthrough at a White House meeting Thursday night,” Roll Call reports. “Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad said Democrats would offer a short-term spending bill if talks break down, the North Dakota Democrat said after a caucus meeting Thursday afternoon. The bill would include funding for troops for the remainder of the fiscal year, but it would not include policy riders sought by House Republicans.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) “contended that there is bipartisan support in the Senate for the bill, which the House passed with the support of 15 Democrats on Thursday afternoon. ‘It is utterly unfathomable why Democrats in the Senate and the White House don’t recognize the fiscal crisis we are facing,’ he told reporters doing a news conference shortly after the House vote,” Roll Call writes.

“As it appeared increasingly likely Thursday afternoon that the government would shut down Saturday, House Democrats said they would push a measure that would restore pay for furloughed government employees,” Roll Call reports.

How about these fighting words from Chuck Schumer: "Speaker Boehner is somebody we all have a great deal of affection for and sympathy for," Schumer said on the Senate floor, per The Hill. "But you know, Mr. President, the hour is nigh and leadership is called for. And to allow this small group … to dominate everything that is happening and hurt millions of innocent people is not leadership." (“The hour is nigh”?)

Tea Party freshman Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), per The Hill: “Why was it that a few months ago … when the president had both Houses under the control of his party — why did he opt not to pass a budget for fiscal year 2011? … “It was either irresponsible on one hand or deliberate and malicious on the other with intention to bring about a sequence of events that would culminate inevitably in a government shutdown.”

Here’s one consolation prize: “In the event of a government shutdown, two of Capitol Hill's most popular watering holes want to make sure that congressional staffers can still afford a cocktail,” The Hill writes. They’re talking one-cent beers for those with congressional Ids and half-priced martinis.

“The House voted Thursday to block Environmental Protection Agency climate regulations, a win for Republicans who have put hobbling the agency's greenhouse gas rules at the top of their policy agenda,” The Hill reports. “But the Senate rejected the same measure Wednesday and the White House has threatened to veto the legislation, leaving the likelihood of the bill becoming law very small.”

“Sen. Charles Schumer is expected to support legislation backed by the banking industry that would put him into conflict with Sen. Dick Durbin, a rival to succeed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.),” The Hill reports.