What’s Good For The Goose Is Good For The Gander — Unless By Gander You Mean Congress, Then No

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NICKOLAS D. CHRISTOF: If we careen over a cliff on Friday and the American government shuts down, hard-working federal workers will stop getting paychecks, but the members of Congress responsible for the shutdown are expected to be paid as usual. That’s partly because Congressional pay is not subject to the regular appropriations process, and partly because of Constitutional concerns. The Senate passed a bill proposed by Barbara Boxer of California that would suspend Congressional paychecks in any government shutdown, but the Republican-controlled House has blocked it. House Republicans approved a similar pay suspension, but it was embedded in legislation that has zero chance of becoming law. The upshot is that federal workers who do important work for the public — cleaning up toxic waste, enrolling sick people into lifesaving medical trials, answering medical hot lines, running national parks, processing passport applications — risk being sent home and going unpaid. But members of Congress would continue to receive $174,000 a year. As the humorist Andy Borowitz wrote in a Twitter message:  “That’s like eliminating the fire dept & sending checks to the arsonists.” MORE

RELATED: John Boehner of Ohio, the speaker of the House, and Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader, are headed back to the White House Thursday afternoon for a second session with President Obama on the budget. But remarks by each lawmaker in advance of the meeting suggested that compromise is elusive, with just over 36 hours before the deadline. Each man said that negotiators were stuck on some of the 40 Republican-sponsored policy provisions included in the budget legislation, which would dictate how money could or could not be spent between now and the end of the federal fiscal year in September. Those include prohibitions on government payments to abortion providers and restrictions on the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate air pollution. Mr. Reid said Thursday morning that he was “not nearly as optimistic” about avoiding a shutdown as he was after a meeting in the Oval Office Wednesday night with Mr. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. “It looks like it’s headed in that direction,” he said. Mr. Reid said that Republicans had “drawn a line in the sand” on issues of abortion financing and changes to the Clean Air Act, and that those issues could not be resolved in the hours left before a government shutdown. MORE

RELATED:  If a government shutdown happens, it’ll be because Republicans are demanding policy restrictions in addition to spending cuts before agreeing to fund the government through September. These policy restrictions would target abortion providers and seek to limit the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency. Which of the so-called riders are at stake and how do they work? There are several riders addressing abortion and environmental regulation. It’s not clear yet which of them specifically are at issue. Neither side is saying publicly which they are. But here’s a primer on what they contain: MORE

RELATED: A Gallup poll released Wednesday and circulated by Senate Democrats found that Americans decidedly want to see the two parties compromise and reach a budget deal. But a majority of Republicans wanted their leaders to “[h]old out for the basic budget plan they want, even if that means the government shuts down.” Americans decidedly want a compromise by a margin of 58 to 33 percent, the poll found. But Republicans prefer the hard line position 51 to 44 percent, in contrast with Democrats, who are willing to cede ground by a margin of 68 to 27 percent. Independents in the survey said they support the compromise position by 60 to 29 percent. MORE


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