Boehner: Not Enough Votes for ‘Clean’ Bill to Open Government

US Speaker of the House John Boehner speaks to the media after a meeting with US President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, DC, October 2, 2013, on the second day of the government shutdown. 
National Journal
Billy House
See more stories about...
Billy House
Oct. 6, 2013, 10 a.m.

House Speak­er John Boehner in­sisted Sunday there are not enough votes in the House to pass “clean” bills to re­start gov­ern­ment fund­ing and end the shut­down, or to pro­tect the na­tion’s abil­ity to con­tin­ue bor­row­ing money, without Demo­crat­ic con­ces­sions to Re­pub­lic­an policy de­mands.

But Treas­ury Sec­ret­ary Jac­ob Lew on Sunday blamed the shut­down on “the tac­tics of an ex­treme group” of House Re­pub­lic­ans who have been de­mand­ing the de­fund­ing, delay­ing, or dis­mant­ling of Obama­care. And he says the ad­min­is­tra­tion simply won’t back down.

“The pres­id­ent’s mes­sage is clear: Con­gress needs to do its job. They need to open the gov­ern­ment, they need to make it so we can pay our bills, and then we need to ne­go­ti­ate, and he is very much pre­pared to do that,” said Lew, ap­pear­ing on CNN’s State of the Uni­on.

Both men pressed their cases on Sunday morn­ing’s news shows, un­der­scor­ing a wide gulf that con­tin­ues to ex­ist, at least pub­licly, between both sides as the gov­ern­ment shut­down hits its sev­enth day on Monday. And Boehner, ap­pear­ing on ABC’s This Week, dis­missed any hope­ful no­tion that quiet, back-chan­nel ne­go­ti­ations may be un­der way.

“There may be a back­room some­where, but nobody’s in it,” Boehner said.

However, Boehner did note that Obama has can­celed a sched­uled trip this week to Asia, and the Ohio Re­pub­lic­an said, “I’m ready for the phone call. I’m ready for the con­ver­sa­tion.”

Mean­while, the loom­ing debt-ceil­ing fight is com­ing in­to sharp­er fo­cus. The ad­min­is­tra­tion has pro­jec­ted the cur­rent $16.7 tril­lion cap will be hit on about Oct. 17, and Lew has told Con­gress the re­per­cus­sions range from harm to the na­tion’s cred­it­wor­thi­ness and stand­ing to skyrock­et­ing in­terest rates — even caus­ing the U.S. dol­lar to plum­met.

Asked dur­ing This Week about pre­vi­ous prom­ises that he will not per­mit the U.S. to de­fault, Boehner said, “My goal is not to have the U.S. de­fault on its debt.”

But Boehner also warned “it is the path we’re on” if Obama and con­gres­sion­al Demo­crat­ic lead­ers’ con­tin­ue to re­fuse to ne­go­ti­ate and in­sist on what the speak­er de­scribed as “com­plete sur­render” from Re­pub­lic­ans.

He also re­af­firmed that he and oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans will press for spend­ing cuts in re­turn for in­creas­ing the na­tion’s abil­ity to bor­row, but that they also see the debt-ceil­ing fight as an arena for a con­ver­sa­tion about how to ad­dress the main drivers of U.S. debt, such as So­cial Se­cur­ity, Medi­care, and oth­er en­ti­tle­ments. “It is time for us to deal with our un­der­ly­ing spend­ing prob­lems,” he said.

But Lew said on CNN that Con­gress is “play­ing with fire” if it risks fail­ing to raise the na­tion’s debt ceil­ing.

“You can’t pay all the bills if Con­gress doesn’t raise the debt ceil­ing. And none of these bills are new. These are com­mit­ments that Con­gress made — it’s pay­ing old bills,” he said. “It would be like someone ran up their cred­it card and de­cided not to pay it.”

“You can’t do that,” Lew ad­ded, say­ing, “the United States gov­ern­ment is just too im­port­ant to the world. Our cur­rency is the world’s re­serve cur­rency.”

Lew did add, “I know john Boehner doesn’t want to de­fault. He also didn’t want to shut the gov­ern­ment down.” And he said the pres­id­ent does not want that to hap­pen, either. “The pres­id­ent has been, is and will al­ways be look­ing for that way to ne­go­ti­ate to find the sens­ible middle ground,” he said.

But he ad­ded of hard-liners in the House Re­pub­lic­an con­fer­ence: “They ended up with a gov­ern­ment shut­down be­cause of the tac­tics of an ex­treme group try­ing to say we’re will­ing to do real dam­age if we don’t get our way.

Still, Boehner said the con­fer­ence is united.

And on the fight over gov­ern­ment fund­ing that led to the shut­down Oct. 1 — the start of the new fisc­al year — Boehner in­dic­ated no in­clin­a­tion to put a “clean” bill on the floor.

Con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats, and a few Re­pub­lic­ans, claim that if Boehner was will­ing to do that, go­ing against the wishes of the hard-liners and oth­ers in his con­fer­ence, that the bill would pass. They say that, along with few Re­pub­lic­an mod­er­ates, most of the 200 Demo­crats among the total 432 House mem­bers would join in back­ing it.

But Boehner flatly said Sunday on ABC, “There are not the votes in the House to pass a clean CR.” He did not spe­cify if, by that, he meant not enough Re­pub­lic­an votes, or votes in the en­tire House, in­clud­ing both parties.

Mi­chael Czin, a spokes­man for the Demo­crat­ic Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee, re­spon­ded in a state­ment, “In­stead of ac­know­ledging that there are votes in the House to pass a clean con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion to open the gov­ern­ment — something that every­one ad­mits but him — Speak­er Boehner would rather keep the gov­ern­ment shut to ex­tract de­mands.”

Boehner dis­missed in­sinu­ations that he is be­ing forced by the far Right in his con­fer­ence in­to a stand-off he did not want. At one point, he ad­mit­ted there had been con­ver­sa­tions with Sen­ate Demo­crat­ic lead­ers about put­ting a clean CR on the floor, not dir­ectly at­tached to lan­guage tar­get­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act.

“I thought the fight would be over the debt ceil­ing,” said Boehner, but he ad­ded that in “talk­ing with my mem­bers, they said, let’s do it now.”

When might the stale­mate end?

“If I knew — I’d tell you,” Boehner said.

Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., one of the con­ser­vat­ives most in­stru­ment­al in the tak­ing up Sen. Ted Cruz’s call for Obama­care con­ces­sions as part of any bill to re­start gov­ern­ment spend­ing, said dur­ing his own ap­pear­ance on Fox News Sunday that House Re­pub­lic­ans re­main united.

And he dis­missed the no­tion that he and oth­er House con­ser­vat­ives would seek to strip Boehner of his speak­er­ship if he did not ad­here to their hard line in ne­go­ti­ations.

“Nobody could do a bet­ter job than he could,” Graves said.

What We're Following See More »
SUFFOLK POLL
New Survey Shows Clinton Up 9 in Pennsylvania
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

If a new poll is to be believed, Hillary Clinton has a big lead in the all-important swing state of Pennsylvania. A new Suffolk University survey shows her ahead of Donald Trump, 50%-41%. In a four-way race, she maintains her nine-point lead, 46%-37%. "Pennsylvania has voted Democratic in the past six presidential elections, going back to Bill Clinton’s first win in 1992. Yet it is a rust belt state that could be in play, as indicated by recent general-election polling showing a close race."

Source:
$500 MILLION PROJECT
Obama Library Heading to Jackson Park in Chicago
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"President Barack Obama has chosen Jackson Park, a lakefront park that once hosted the world’s fair on the city’s South Side, for his $500 million presidential library, according to a person familiar with the matter."

Source:
THREE NIGHTS RUNNING
Democrats Beat Republicans in Convention Ratings So Far
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Wednesday was the third night in a row that the Democratic convention enjoyed a ratings win over the Republican convention last week. Which might have prompted a fundraising email from Donald Trump exhorting supporters not to watch. "Unless you want to be lied to, belittled, and attacked for your beliefs, don't watch Hillary's DNC speech tonight," the email read. "Instead, help Donald Trump hold her accountable, call out her lies and fight back against her nasty attacks."

Source:
THE QUESTION
How Many VIPs Were the Secret Service Protecting in Philly Last Night?
4 hours ago
THE ANSWER

Seven, according to an official Secret Service tweet.

Source:
‘MOGUL,’ ‘DAREDEVIL’
Candidates’ Code Names Revealed
4 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

The Clintons will retain their Secret Service "code names from the last time they lived in the White House. Hillary Clinton is EVERGREEN and Bill ClintonEAGLE. Donald Trump is MOGUL, according to reports, and Melania Trump MUSE. The vice presidents get code names, too: Mike Pence is HOOSIER—a little on the nose—and his wife HUMMINGBIRD. Tim Kaine is DAREDEVIL, somewhat ambitiously. His wife's? To be determined."

Source:
×