Washington Extra - This just might stink

WASHINGTON, April 8 Fri Apr 8, 2011 5:12pm EDT

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WASHINGTON, April 8 (Reuters) - The U.S. Congress cannot ignore the political losses that might run into the 2012 elections from failing to get a budget deal tonight. A running poll of readers on reuters.com shows 60 percent would blame Republicans more for a government shutdown, 22 percent would blame Democrats and 18 percent say both parties, equally.

In the blame game, however, Republicans have a powerful point: when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress just months ago, they could have approved the current year budget. The Democrats started this mess, they say. President Barack Obama will lose face if he can't stop it.

But all eyes are on House Speaker John Boehner in his first real test as the supreme Republican leader. A hard-fought deal in the 11th hour could cement his leadership in the party. A shutdown could earn him street cred with vocal, vote-heavy Tea Partiers who want him to hold firm on spending cuts.

In the event of a shutdown, Boehner might also get street crud. Garbage will not be collected in the District of Columbia and nearly 7,000 residents have joined a Facebook campaign titled "If Boehner shuts down the government I am taking my trash to his house."

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Here are our top stories from Washington:

With no US budget deal, government shutdown looms

With a midnight deadline looming, the White House and Congress scrambled to break a budget impasse that threatens to shut down the government and idle hundreds of thousands of federal workers. Democrats said the two sides were at odds over federal funding for birth control. Republicans said spending cuts were the issue. [ID:nN08144565]

Veteran of 1995 U.S. shutdown says don't repeat

The official who carried out the last government shutdown has a warning for squabbling lawmakers -- another one now could be disastrous for the economy. John Koskinen said failure to reach a budget deal could plunge the United States back into recession. "Things are very different today than they were in 1995," Koskinen, a former deputy director at the White House OMB, told Reuters. [ID:nN08261226]

Shutdown would lay off astronauts, close parks

Garbage will pile up in the streets of the capital, the Statue of Liberty will close and astronauts will stay home if the Congress fails to reach a budget deal and the government shuts down. Government services deemed nonessential run out of funding at midnight without an agreement on spending for the rest of the fiscal year. If lawmakers cannot break the logjam, some 800,000 employees will be sent home without pay when federal agencies close indefinitely. [ID:nN08303468]

US says cannot predict how Mideast revolts play out

The United States said it was impossible to predict whether democratic upheavals in the Middle East would take root, noting in its annual rights report that Egypt has yet to end its state of emergency. The spread of camera-enabled phones and online video has amplified democratic protests around the world but also produced a government backlash seeking a tighter grip on information flows, the State Department said. [ID:nN08257620]

U.S. sanctions 5 senior Libyan govt officials

The United States tightened financial pressure on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, adding five senior government officials and two entities controlled by Gaddafi's children to its sanctions blacklist. The Treasury Department said it added Libya's prime minister, Ali al-Mahmoudi Al Baghdadi, and Gaddafi's chief of staff, Bashir Salehand, to the sanctions blacklist. The sanctions, now against 19 individuals, prohibit transactions with them and seek to freeze any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction. [ID:nN08215169]

USDA aims to boost sales of high-blend ethanol

The Obama administration will provide incentives to gas stations to install more pumps with a higher blend of ethanol in an effort to boost consumption of the renewable fuel. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the administration hoped to install 10,000 flexible fuel pumps nationwide in the next five years. [ID:nN08231838]

For more stories from our Washington correspondents visit www.reuters.com and stay informed.

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