CR Blues: Constant Brinkmanship Brings Fatigue

If you thought this week was bad, get used to it. The dysfunction in Congress is likely to make Capitol Hill life miserable for at least the next two months — if it doesn’t consume yet another holiday season.

The most Congress seems able to manage lately is to keep the lights on for a little longer so they can keep arguing over the budget and Obamacare — and even that has been in jeopardy. And members are starting to feel fatigued by the constant brinkmanship.

“It’s not just frustrating, it’s maddening,” said Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper, a Blue Dog Democrat who has long pushed for a grand bargain on the debt.
“I’ve started chopping wood just to relieve the frustration,” he said.

But for Cooper and other lawmakers, the dance over the debt ceiling has barely begun, with a 17-day sprint until what Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew warns would be the nation’s first default on its obligations in history if one side doesn’t blink.

Even if that hurdle is cleared, Congress will have to find a way to fund the budget for the rest of the year.

The pressure has been intense with the band of conservative Republicans demanding a defunding of the health care law clashing with party leadership’s fears of a politically disastrous shutdown to follow.

This week’s marathon speech by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, demanding the defunding of Obamacare and calling out his fellow Republicans helped generate thousands of phone calls to GOP offices — some of which, lawmakers said, were abusive, brought staffers to tears and generated behind-the-scenes confrontations inside the GOP.

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