As the government and Congress reopened for business Thursday, many lawmakers were back in their districts for their first weekend break after the end of the 16-day government shutdown and debt-ceiling crisis.
Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, had said on the Senate floor that he hoped history would judge this week’s bipartisan deal to end the standoffs as “the beginning of a new era of cooperation and civility and problem-solving.”
But early returns on how some leaders and rank-and-file members are explaining these events in Washington to constituents at home don’t indicate any sudden shift in that direction.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who most prominently pushed the strategy to tie funding the government to concessions on the Affordable Care Act, declared Thursday he wasn’t backing down.
“I would do anything, and I will continue to do anything I can, to stop the train wreck that is Obamacare,” Cruz told ABC News when asked if he would rule out forcing another shutdown.
“Even someone as cold as [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid will have a hard time forcing people to buy a bad, unaffordable product from a website that doesn’t work,” tweeted Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga. It was Graves who introduced in the House the Defund Obamacare Act of 2013, eliciting a wave of support from conservative groups and a movement among rank-and-file Republicans to push for action on Obamacare.
And Graves is not the only House conservative unready to stop the flow of rhetoric. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., sent out a release Thursday explaining his vote against the deal to temporarily fund government through Jan. 15 and raise the debt ceiling through Feb. 7.
Among his reasons: “Insurance companies in Harry Reid’s home state [of Nevada] are getting special treatment; so are bars and restaurants in [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi’s district. Members of Congress and their staffs will receive benefits that no other citizens will receive. That’s simply not right. And that’s what we were fighting against.”
But partisan jabs persisted from both sides of the political aisle.
At the White House, Obama himself leveled more criticism at Republicans, even while he called for their cooperation over the remainder of the year and for a less shrill tone on both sides.
Pelosi continued to blame Republicans for the government shutdown, asking reporters, “Was their temper tantrum worth $24 billion?” That’s a reference to credit-rating agency Standard & Poor’s analysis that the shutdown cost the nation’s economy at least $24 billion.
She went on to say she hopes the budget negotiations that are getting under way might provide a way around another fiscal showdown, but she also suggested that the bipartisan talks need to be held in public, not behind closed doors.
Pelosi’s suggestion came with a barb, as she claimed Republicans like to ignore hard data on budget and policy issues. “What seems to be missing now in their caucus is a respect for facts,” she said. “It’s like a data-free zone.”
But not all of the chatter Thursday was partisan.
Pride of authorship beamed in a press release posted by Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, who unflinchingly took credit for a provision contained in the Wednesday’s agreement that critics have suggested is tantamount to an earmark.
A statement posted on his website, entitled “Simpson Secures Wildfire Funding,” states: “Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson ensured that critical wildfire suppression funding was included in must-pass legislation to avert a potential debt default and end the federal government shutdown.” The release goes on to state that the funding included $600 million for the U.S. Forest Service and $36 million for the Interior Department.
But the weekend rhetoric has yet to really begin. And not all lawmakers have necessarily gone home to carry forth more partisan messaging.
Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., a Republican who voted for the measure Wednesday night, held a town-hall event Thursday night, and one of the points on his agenda, according to aides, was his belief there needs to be more civility in politics.
As one of the points on his agenda said, “So many people are frustrated and disappointed in their government — and rightly so.”
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