Shutting Down the Government
by Jonathan Singer, Mon Mar 01, 2010 at 02:43:24 PM EST
The Republicans don't seem to have learned the lessons from the 1995-1996 budget showdown, after which they were punished for having forced the closure of the federal government.
Two thousand federal transportation workers will be furloughed without pay on Monday, and the Obama administration said they have a Kentucky senator to blame for it.
Federal reimbursements to states for highway programs will also be halted, the Transportation Department said in a statement late Sunday. The reimbursements amount to about $190 million a day, according to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
The furloughs and freeze on payments were the result of a decision last week by Republican Sen. Jim Bunning to block passage of legislation that would have extended federal highway and transit programs, the department said. Those programs expired at midnight Sunday.
The extension of transportation programs was part of a larger package of government programs that also expired Sunday, including unemployment benefits for about 400,000 Americans.
The current shutdown, caused by a Republican filibuster, is not on the same scale as the closure nearly 15 years ago -- but it is no less as risky a proposition for the GOP. While the Senate Republicans have blown through the filibuster record during this session, trying to thwart any sense of majority rule in the chamber, their obstructionism has not yet had much of a face to the American people. Yes, healthcare reform has been stalled. But for most Americans, the gridlock in Washington seems to be somewhat of a normal occurrence.
Yet this shutdown changes the game. Republican filibusters now have a face: 2,000 workers furloughed from their jobs, and what's more much-needed transportation construction projects put on hold.
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