Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush

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The Senate tomorrow is scheduled to begin deliberations on the long-term omnibus to fund the government for the rest of the year. In an example of why this will surely take longer than two weeks to decide, Dems aren’t even sure they can dispense with votes on both the House and Senate versions until Friday – even though every one already knows they’re going to both fail. “Everyone’s done the math and everyone knows how these votes will turn out,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the floor today. “It’s unlikely either proposal will pass, which means neither will reach the President’s desk and we’ll go back to square one, back to the negotiating table.”

Half a pound of tuppenny rice

Odds that the Senate will reach a passable compromise before the end of next week are next to nil. So to avoid a government shut down another short-term extension must be passed. House Speaker John Boehner is likely to propose a similar two-week extension paired with $4 billion in bipartisan cuts. Senate Democratic aides were mum on if they would offer an alternative plan.

Half a pound of treacle

Senate Democratic aides expressed concern that it may take more than a month to come to an agreement, requiring a third two-week extension. At that point, the bill would be bumping up against a vote on the debt ceiling expected at the end of April or early May.

That’s the way the money goes

The White House said last week that Vice President Joe Biden was limiting his discussions to the 2011 omnibus. But given the timeline, Biden may be forced to wrap in debt ceiling discussions as congressional Democrats hope to consolidate these votes as much as possible, giving Republicans less opportunities to cut. At the same time the longer the debate drags out, the less time remains in the fiscal year and the harder it will be to make cuts. The House and Senate are currently $51 billion apart. If a solution cannot be found, they risk shutting down the federal government.

Pop! goes the weasel.