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Lame-duck Congress's first task: avoid a government shutdown

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In a surprise move, both House and Senate Republicans last week voted to voluntarily ban earmarks for two years. For Senator McConnell, a longtime defender of earmarking, the decision marked a dramatic shift that he attributed to listening to the voice of the people.

Government shutdown: Who would get the blame?

In order to avoid a government shutdown, Congress may have to accept another short-term measure, called a continuing resolution, leaving the spending bills to the new Republican House and an increased Republican minority in the Senate next year.

For their part, conservative activists and some new GOP lawmakers are not repudiating the prospect of a shutdown.

“Republicans are going to refuse to spend as much as Obama had hoped,” says Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. And unlike 1995, when President Clinton and a new GOP House majority clashed over a government shutdown, this time Republicans won’t get blamed, he adds.

“If Obama chooses to shut down the government, it’s not going to be a repeat of 1995. Several things are different, including Fox News and the Internet,” he adds. “That means that, unlike the last time, people will get the word out … that this is a fight about spending, and that Obama is shutting the government down to increase spending.”

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