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Shutdown scaries

Lisa Kashinsky's must-read rundown of what's up on Beacon Hill and beyond.
Sep 26, 2023 View in browser

By Mia McCarthy and Lisa Kashinsky

WELCOME BACK TO ‘CHAOS’ — Congress returns to Washington today no closer to reaching an agreement to avert a government Shutdown than when lawmakers left last week.

With House Speaker Kevin McCarthy unable to keep his conference — well, the handful of GOP hardliners holding him hostage — in order, Massachusetts’ all-Democratic delegation is bracing for the worst.

“It will be the most preventable shutdown in history,” Rep. Jake Auchincloss said in a weekend Fox News interview.

Washington has become quite familiar with shutdowns over the past decade — the longest one in history was less than five years ago. There's something of a script to them: Struggle through September, then pass a stopgap funding measure before the end of the federal fiscal year that gives lawmakers breathing room to do a massive spending package in December that lets everyone ride through the next election.

This time around, McCarthy’s narrow control of the House has empowered the right-wing House Freedom Caucus to throw out that Playbook.

“I’ve tried to say this in a nice way, but they have [McCarthy] by the balls,” Rep. Jim McGovern said of the GOP hardliners on Friday. “This is chaos.”

The House Rules Committee Ranking Member Jim McGovern, D-Mass., arrives as the panel meets to prepare spending bills to fund the government and avert a shutdown, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) | AP

Possibly the worst part of this waiting game is that it’s not clear how long this shutdown might last if it comes to pass. The five-week partial shutdown in 2018-19 strained a lot of people and programs — but it had a specific demand (money for a border wall).

This time around, things feel nebulous. McCarthy has fewer levers to pull than his predecessors, and Republicans have seen few political repercussions for shutting down the government in the past. Instead, it’s the states — and the tens of thousands of people who will not receive a paycheck — that would feel the burden.

The 2019 government shutdown hit some 8,200 federal workers in Massachusetts, from TSA workers at Logan Airport to IRS employees in Andover. As the shutdown dragged on, furloughed workers started GoFundMe accounts and even sold household items on Craigslist to make ends meet.

Massachusetts now has nearly 25,000 federal employees who could be at risk. Last Friday, the White House directed agencies to refresh their shutdown plans, which will detail what operations get put in stasis and who is deemed so essential that they have to work without pay.

A shutdown could also disrupt social safety net programs: Social Security and veterans benefits will continue. But more than 120,000 women and children in Massachusetts could lose access to supplemental food aid through the Women, Infants and Children program, or WIC, according to the White House. While the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has funding through mid-October, food-stamp recipients could also be at risk if a shutdown stretches beyond then.

And one of the first things to get frozen during a shutdown are research grants, which feed a major economic engine in this tech-focused state.

Local nonprofits who rely on federal funding are already fretting about how to help their clients after this week. Unions, like the one representing TSA workers across three New England states, are sounding alarms about staffing and about how their members will make ends meet as they work without money coming in. And this all comes as people are expected to start paying down their federal student loans for the first time in three years, starting Oct. 1.

GOOD TUESDAY MORNING, MASSACHUSETTS. It’s another Election Day in the commonwealth.

On the ballot in today’s preliminary elections: Beverly Mayor Mike Cahill faces Philip Venezia and James Zarella. In Fitchburg, Mayor Stephen DiNatale squares off against City Councilor Samantha Squailia, School Committee member Maritza Knight and retired cop Stanley Young. Two will advance from each race.

TODAY — Gov. Maura Healey signs an executive order creating a Clean Energy Infrastructure Siting and Permitting Commission at 10:45 a.m. at the State House, attends a Recovery Month celebration at 11:45 a.m. at Faneuil Hall and is on GBH’s “Boston Public Radio” at 1 p.m. Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll chairs a STEM Advisory Council meeting at 9:30 a.m. in Holyoke. AG Andrea Campbell speaks at the AIM Executive Forum at 8:30 a.m. in Canton and testifies in support of H.1710/S.942 at 1 p.m. at the State House. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu speaks at a Recovery Month celebration at 9:30 a.m. on the Boston Common.

U.S. Special Envoy for Northern Ireland Joe Kennedy III and Rep. Richard Neal attend a breakfast celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement at 9 a.m. at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute.

Tips? Scoops? Worried you'll be affected by a government shutdown? Email us: [email protected] and [email protected].


GO INSIDE THE CAPITOL DOME: From the outset, POLITICO has been your eyes and ears on Capitol Hill, providing the most thorough Congress coverage — from political characters and emerging leaders to leadership squabbles and policy nuggets during committee markups and hearings. We're stepping up our game to ensure you’re fully informed on every key detail inside the Capitol Dome, all day, every day. Start your day with Playbook AM, refuel at midday with our Playbook PM halftime report and enrich your evening discussions with Huddle. Plus, stay updated with real-time buzz all day through our brand new Inside Congress Live feature. Learn more and subscribe here.


— “Compromise bill could move pay equity closer and help attract workers to Mass.,” by Shirley Leung, Boston Globe: “Massachusetts lawmakers said Monday that they reached a compromise on legislation that aims to close the racial and gender wage gaps, a breakthrough that improves the bill’s chances of becoming law.”


FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — The Environmental League of Massachusetts Action Fund has endorsed Enrique Pepén to be the next District 5 Boston city councilor.

— “Mayor, governor question feasibility of Widett Circle plan pitched as fix for Mass. and Cass,” by Emma Platoff and Nick Stoico, Boston Globe: “A plan put forth by South End businesses and residents to relocate the homeless encampment in the area known as Mass. and Cass and build a recovery campus at nearby Widett Circle appears all but dead after city and state officials cast further doubt about the long-shot proposal on Monday. ‘It’s not something that, for me, seems feasible within the city’s purview,’ Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said during her monthly appearance on WBUR’s ‘Radio Boston.’”

Wu also defended asking the City Council to approve $3.4 million in grants for the Boston Regional Intelligence Center — the police department’s surveillance and intelligence arm that she campaigned on abolishing — because of new police leadership and a cleaning up of the BRIC’s controversial gang database.

— “In Portland’s version of Mass. and Cass, efforts to sweep away homelessness are being challenged,” by Kevin Cullen, Boston Globe: “In Portland, as in Boston, the city’s response to the question of where to go has been: to a shelter. … Social workers and outreach workers at Preble Street, which has worked to combat homelessness and poverty in Portland for decades, say the city’s approach of sweeping away the encampments is actually counterproductive to efforts to get people off the street.”


FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — One Fair Wage, which is pushing a ballot question to gradually raise the minimum wage for tipped workers to match the general minimum wage, says it has collected more than 50,000 of the 74,574 signatures it needs to advance in the process. The group will mark the milestone with a press conference at noon outside the State House.

Of course, these signatures will still need to be certified. And many ballot campaigns are felled by falling short of the signature threshold. But One Fair Wage, using a mix of volunteers and paid organizers, is already two-thirds of the way there with two months until the Nov. 22 deadline. Auditor Diana DiZoglio, by contrast, said she had only gathered about 1,000 signatures for her ballot question to audit the Legislature heading into Saturday's MassDems convention.

— “As progressives split on rent control tactics, ballot campaign pushes ahead,” by Emma Platoff and Catherine Carlock, Boston Globe: “The ‘Raise Up Massachusetts’ campaign for the millionaires tax had support from more than 150 organizations, said Steve Crawford, a consultant who led that push and other ballot efforts over the years. Labor unions were key, both in terms of funding and manpower; their large membership bases provided foot soldiers for signature drives and other campaign efforts. As of now, Connolly’s effort lacks the support of many of the state’s most influential labor and housing organizations.”


— “Bourne officials seek state guidance on enforcing motel-stay restrictions for migrants,” by Paul Gately, Cape Cod Times: “The Bourne Board of Health voted 5-0 last week to prod the Gov. Maura Healey administration and state officials for clarity when dealing with migrants living in two local motels as well as other towns on the Cape and Martha's Vineyard. Town of Bourne hotel and motel regulations call for guests to depart after three-week stays, and board members said this would include the 50 migrant and displaced families lodged in facilities in Bourne."


— “MBTA employee indicted 6 years ago pleads guilty,” by Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine: “An MBTA employee who was indicted and suspended six years ago for leveraging his job as a buyer to solicit kickbacks and illegal gifts pleaded guilty on Monday and was sentenced to a year in jail and required to pay restitution of $37,860.”


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— “US senators pressure Treasury to get more aggressive on climate crisis risks,” by Andrea Shalal, Reuters: “Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and four other U.S. senators [including Ed Markey] are pressuring the U.S. Treasury Department to step up oversight and offer more guidance to financial institutions on addressing climate change risks threatening the U.S. financial system.”


— “Lawsuit raises a complex question: How many pot shops is too many in downtown Boston?” by Jon Chesto, Boston Globe: “Boston’s zoning rules say a new marijuana retailer shall not open within a half-mile of an existing one. In practice, it’s quite different: The Zoning Board of Appeal has granted a number of variances to that buffer rule, primarily to reach a state-mandated minimum of 52 cannabis dispensary licenses within the city and to keep pace with a city rule that half of the licenses go to equity applicants.”


LEARNING EXPERIENCE — Remember that Wilbraham school that couldn’t shut off its lights for 18 months? It’s now the basis for Inspector General Jeffrey Shapiro’s new recommendations to the Massachusetts School Building Authority on how to “mitigate risks arising from smart building technology” being installed in schools. More from MassLive.

— “LIFT social service agency ceases overnight operation of 15-bed shelter, lays off staff,” by Brad Petrishen, Telegram & Gazette: “Living in Freedom Together, the nonprofit agency that aims to end the sex trade and help women engaged in prostitution, said Monday that it is changing its name, laying off staff and ceasing overnight operation of a 15-bed shelter it opened in 2021.”


DESANTIS DEFLATING — Another week, another poll showing Ron DeSantis tanking in New Hampshire. The Florida governor is down 18 percentage points from March in the latest Saint Anselm Poll of likely Granite State GOP primary voters. At 11 percent support, he trails both former President Donald Trump at 45 percent and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley at 15 percent. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is just behind at 10 percent. The online survey of 931 likely voters was conducted Sept. 19 and 20 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

DeSantis’ supporters have been urging him to return to New Hampshire, where he hasn’t been for a month and isn’t due for another three weeks. Meanwhile, the “continued deterioration” of support for DeSantis has “created space for” Haley and Christie “to grow,” New Hampshire Institute of Politics Executive Director Neil Levesque said in a statement alongside the poll’s release.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY — to Brendan Creedon. Happy belated to Patrick Sullivan, executive director of Seaport TMA, who celebrated Sunday.

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Lisa Kashinsky @lisakashinsky


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Shutdown scaries


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