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Space Policy Events for the Week of October 13-19, 2013

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 13-Oct-2013
Updated: 13-Oct-2013 04:26 PM

With the government shutdown still in place, it is difficult to know precisely what space policy events will take place in the coming week, but here is what we know right now.  The House and Senate will be in session trying to find a solution to the situation.

During the Week

As the partial government shutdown enters its third week and the deadline for exceeding the $16.7 trillion debt limit nears -- Thursday is the day according to current estimates -- the good news is that the rhetoric in Washington has cooled even if there is no deal yet.  

Here's the state of play as of Sunday afternoon as best as we can tell from a wide variety of news reports.  

Despite hopeful signs on Thursday after a meeting with a small group of House Republicans, the President rejected the proposal they ultimately sent him because they were not willing to negotiate over raising revenues (taxes), only on spending cuts and entitlement reform.  For the past three years, President Obama has consistently insisted that any discussions of reducing the deficit include both spending cuts and revenue increases.  Republicans just as consistently insist that they will not agree to any revenue increases.

The President met with Senate Republicans on Friday, and with the House Republican proposal off the table, attention has shifted to the Senate.   A proposal developed under the leadership of Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) looked promising, but Senate Democratic leaders rejected it yesterday, the same day that Republicans defeated a Democratic proposal to extend the debt limit.   The debt limit does not permit additional spending; it allows the government to borrow money to pay bills it already owes.

The Democratic proposal, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), would have raised the debt limit by $1 trillion until December 31, 2014, past next year's mid-term congressional elections.  It did not address the issue of reopening the government.   A motion to bring to the bill to the floor was rejected on a party line vote 53-45; 60 yes votes were needed.

The Republican proposal did not even get that far before being rejected by Senate Democratic leaders.  Collins put forward a draft plan that included funding the government for six months and raising the debt limit until January 31.  However, the six months of government funding would have been at a lower spending level than Democrats want.   The three important numbers are:  $967 billion, how much money the government could spend in FY2014 under the sequester; $986 billion, the amount of money the government could spend in FY2013 under the sequester and, under a typical Continuing Resolution (CR), would be the level at which spending continues until FY2014 appropriations bills are passed; and $1.058 trillion, the funding level approved by the Senate in its Budget Resolution this spring that does not take account of the sequester, which Democrats want to replace with another means of deficit reduction.   The Collins proposal was for six months of spending apparently at the $967 billion level, not the current $986 billion level, and Senate Democrats were willing to settle only for the $986 billion figure and for a shorter time period.   

The Collins proposal also would have delayed a medical device tax that is part of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) for two years and required income verification to qualify for subsidies under that Act, as well as given agencies more flexibility in applying sequester-related funding cuts and set up a conference committee to work out a long term plan.  It was the spending level, however, that reportedly torpedoed the proposal.  There was no guarantee that House Republicans would agree with the Collins' plan either, but for a few days it did look like the Senate might reach some sort of consensus with that as its core.  Collins told CNN this morning that she remains optimistic that the situation will be resolved this week and some parts of her plan will be included.

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says that the debt limit will be reached Thursday and must be raised or suspended by then or the government will default on its debts.   House Speaker John Boehner said a week ago that he would not allow the government to default, so perhaps that deadline will force consensus, but it is far from certain.  The Senate remains in session today; the House returns tomorrow.

Sunday-Saturday, October 13-19

Monday-Thursday, October 14-17

Tuesday, October 15

Wednesday-Thursday, October 16-17


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