Will there be a shutdown? When will we know?
One clear development in the last week or so is that at least the leadership on both sides definitely want the other party to be blamed if the government shuts down.
What that should mean as things play out this week is that neither side will want to leave the negotiating table. That could, I suppose, actually help in getting a deal struck. But whether it does or doesn't, it probably means that we won't know until fairly late in the game whether they're at an impasse. Keep that in mind when trying to translate what the negotiators say in public this week. They're very likely to be competing for the title of "most reasonable."
And they may mean it! I still think that Speaker John Boehner shouldn't want a shutdown because it would jeopardize his job, and it's possible that the Democrats don't, either (they may believe that they'll win the spin war, but lose in the long run if the economy is damaged). However, I also still think that it's difficult to see where the votes are to get a deal done.
I should mention...OK, I'm going to have to use a baseball reference here, so apologies for those who won't get the full flavor of it. Anyway: there are shutdowns, and there are shutdowns. In baseball, the strikes/lockouts in 1981 and 1994-1995 were terribly disruptive, career changing events, while stoppages in 1972 and 1985 cost a totals of, if I recall correctly, nine days of games. I've believed since the beginning that the real danger for John Boehner is that once things get going, it's hard for him to control his House Republicans, but that's a "probably," not a sure thing. A one or two day shutdown would be quickly forgotten. So while I've said for a while now that a shutdown is very likely, and I still believe that, I should add that one possible outcome is a short stalemate resolved in less than a week, with few consequences for anyone.
Between that, and the rollout of the new GOP FY 2012 budget, it should be a thrilling week for budget wonks.