With the government nine days away from running out of funding, by week’s end the only clarity in Congress was a lack of clarity.  Congress will end legislative action this week after Tuesday with time off for Yom Kippur on Wednesday and a suspension of legislative action for the Pope’s speech and visit.  Here is what we do know:

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) are in agreement on a flat CR for two or possibly three months to allow for a more long term negotiation. 

The President and Minority Leaders Reed (D-NV) and Pelosi (D-CA) are agreed that any short-term CR will fund defense and domestic spending at the same increased or flat levels and there wil be no policy riders including restrictions on Planned Parenthood 

Democrats are unlikely to vote for a Republican-written CR without an agreement to renegotiate a new set of budget caps—at least for the next year or two years. 

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is not certain whether he can get enough House Republican votes without some restriction on Planned Parenthood. 

Whether or not the government will be forced to shut down at least for a few days.

As a backdrop to the budget issue there has been an increasing public discussion about efforts by approximately two dozen conservative Republicans to replace Speaker Boehner if he fails to restrict funding to Planned Parenthood. The issue of banning all federal funds to Planned Parenthood has also been part of the Republican strategy sessions.

Senator McConnell has been clear to his members that such a cut-off cannot be included in a CR because the White House and Congressional Democrats will oppose such an effort.  As an alternative there is growing discussion of using the reconciliation process to cut off funding.  The reconciliation, which is allowed because of this spring’s budget resolution, was to be used to repeal the ACA but a cutoff of Planned Parenthood could be included.  The vote would be moot since the President will veto any such reconciliation but it may provide a test vote on the two issues to be used in the upcoming presidential campaign.

A short term CR would extend funding for all programs at the 2015 level to mid-November or mid-December.  It would give both sides a chance to negotiate a new budget deal likely for both FY 2016 and FY 2017 carry that budget past the election.  There was a temporary reprieve from the budget caps in 2014 but that restored the 2013 spending level.
Under the current budget caps and sequestration non-defense discretionary spending will increase by two-tenths of a percent next year.  That is slightly more than a $1 billion increase.  Congressional Republicans want a $38 billion increase in the Defense Department budget.  They provide this through appropriations bills that circumvent the budget caps by calling the increase “emergency spending” and off budget.

The President has proposed a $38 billion increase in defense spending but only if it is accompanied by an equal $38 billion domestic spending increase. The White House has proposed some tax code changes as an offset. Such a deal would require some agreement on increases for both domestic and defense spending.