Columbus Day, October 14, the government shutdown is in its 14th day. Worse, the statutory limit on how much the government can borrow (the debt ceiling) will be reached in a matter of days. Not raising that borrowing limit can lead to a U.S. government default on some of its bonds and the interest payments due on those bonds. This could prove disastrous to the faith and credit of the United States, lead to an increase in interest rates and worse, a freezing of credit markets rivaling what occurred back in September 2008 when Lehman Brothers failed, partly the result of the burst of the housing bubble.
Not raising the U.S. government borrowing limit could lead to Social Security and civil service retirement benefit payments not being sent out to recipients. It could lead to food stamps and unemployment benefits being curtailed. And it could lead to soldiers and sailors and airman not being paid.
The result could be a recession rivaling the Great Recession of 2008-2009.
At this late date, talks between the White House and House Republicans are stalled and discussion is underway in the Senate. The House Republican goal, led by its tea party caucus, to gut health care reform embodied in the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, or to at least weaken it to the point that it will fall on its own, has essentially failed.
But it is not clear what the House Republican tea caucus will accept in order to agree to vote along with the more moderate and establishment House Republicans to pass a bill with a majority of House Republican support. And it is not clear that the President and Senate Democrats could go along with anything the House Republicans are willing to propose.
The way out of the dilemma appears to be for the Senate to pass a bipartisan bill to open the government and raise the debt ceiling, one with enough in it for moderate House Republicans to join with House Democrats for a majority vote for it to pass in the House in a straight up vote.
But here are the danger points. At this late hour, Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans have failed to come to terms on just what should be included in a Senate bill, whether House Speaker John Boehner (R- Ohio), would allow a vote for such a bill on the House floor and if he did, weather it would get enough Republicans joining with Democrats to pass the House.
The timing is so close, that a simple miscalculation by either side could send us over the brink.