Shutdown Watch-Day 15. It's white-knuckle time.


Good morning! Let’s start the day with a cheery observation often attributed to the 18th-century English writer Samuel Johnson: “Nothing concentrates a man’s mind more than the prospect of being hanged in the morning.”

Figuratively speaking, the same seems to be true of Congress. The specter of impending economic calamity, combined with rising public disapproval, (particularly for Republicans), over the partial government shutdown, appears to have prodded senators to close in on yet another stop-gap budget deal that could have just as easily been reached a month ago.

As reported by Defense News, a sister publication of Federal Times, Senate leaders could unveil a tentative agreement as early as this morning that would reopen agencies at current spending levels until Jan. 15, while raising the nation’s borrowing limit to last until February. On the budget front, the idea is to give lawmakers and the Obama administration three months to dicker over broader concerns, such as easing or canceling the next round of sequester-related cuts that will likely take effect in January. At this point, it’s unclear whether the package will include a provision ensuring back pay for hundreds of thousands of furloughed federal workers.

A Senate vote on the agreement could come Thursday. That’s also the day that the government will exhaust its borrowing authority, threatening a potentially ruinous debt default, according to the administration. And assuming the deal is approved by the Democratic-controlled Senate, it faces a rough ride in the GOP-run House, where some lawmakers have not given up on hopes of forcing the White House to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). The overarching question is whether House Speaker John  Boehner, R-Ohio, would be willing to pass the compromise package with Democratic votes if he can’t bring enough members of his own party along. So far, Boehner’s not saying.

A key off-stage player will be the stock market. If major market indices take a dive in the next day or two, that could ramp up pressure on lawmakers to give the agreement final approval sooner rather than later. (And even Tea Party loyalists have investment portfolios, after all.)

Any major developments we’ve missed, particularly in regard to agency news? Let us know with an email to




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