State of Play: Saturday Sessions Came and Went, but Shutdown Is Still Here

Here’s what happened on the Hill on the fifth day of the government shutdown.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., speak at a press conference on the government shutdown on Friday.
National Journal
Marina Koren
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Marina Koren
Oct. 5, 2013, 8:28 a.m.

This week in Wash­ing­ton has cer­tainly been one for the books. The United States saw its first gov­ern­ment shut­down in 17 years, the his­tor­ic (and glitch-rid­den) rol­lout of the fed­er­al health in­sur­ance mar­ket­place, a high-speed car chase that ended in gun­fire out­side the Cap­it­ol, and an act of self-im­mol­a­tion on the Na­tion­al Mall.

On the fifth day of the shut­down, law­makers con­tin­ued pulling at the rope in a game of polit­ic­al tug-of-war. Boehner will not put a clean con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion to vote, which Sen­ate Demo­crats and the White House say is the only way out. The House con­tin­ued to push a piece­meal ap­proach, passing res­ol­u­tions that fund the most pop­u­lar parts of the gov­ern­ment. One of the latest such bills, un­an­im­ously passed to provide ret­ro­act­ive com­pens­a­tion for fur­loughed fed­er­al em­ploy­ees, is see­ing sup­port in the Sen­ate, in­clud­ing its ma­jor­ity lead­er, Harry Re­id, D-Nev.

Still, the lead­ers of both sides aren’t back­ing down, and the shut­down con­tin­ues for an­oth­er day. They are also aware that time is run­ning out as the debt ceil­ing dead­line looms ever closer. So, the ques­tion next week may be, which will break first?

Here’s what happened Sat­urday on the Hill.

Con­tri­bu­tions from Mi­chael Cata­lini and Billy House

5:03 p.m. — House Passes Mini CR for Re­li­gious Ser­vices for Mil­it­ary

The House passed a bill by 400-1 that would en­sure the avail­ab­il­ity of re­gious ser­vices to mem­bers of the mil­it­ary and their fam­il­ies dur­ing the shut­down. The dis­sent­ing vote came from Rep. Bill En­yart, D-Ill., who said the bill “did noth­ing for the troops. All it does is provide polit­ic­al cov­er for people who won’t do their jobs,” re­fer­ring to Con­gress. He ex­plained his de­cision a state­ment on his web­site:

Day care cen­ters on mil­it­ary bases are closed. Com­mis­sar­ies on mil­it­ary bases are closed. Mil­it­ary sup­port work­ers are fur­loughed. Of course I want chapels open, but what about our mil­it­ary fam­il­ies who have no place to send their chil­dren and are forced to buy fam­ily es­sen­tials off base?

The House has ad­jorned un­til Monday.

3:21 p.m. — Hagel to Bring Fur­loughed De­fense De­part­ment Em­ploy­ees Back to Work

De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel said in a state­ment Sat­urday af­ter­noon that most fur­loughed em­ploy­ees at the De­fense De­part­ment will re­turn to work next week. Hagel said that some lan­guage with­in the Pay Our Mil­it­ary Act, signed by Pres­id­ent Obama just a few hours be­fore the gov­ern­ment shut down, lends to the re­ten­tion of DOD ci­vil­ian em­ploy­ees “whose re­spons­ib­il­it­ies con­trib­ute to the mor­ale, well-be­ing, cap­ab­il­it­ies and read­i­ness of ser­vice mem­bers.” This means that nearly 400,000 fur­loughed DOD work­ers are eli­gible to re­sume their jobs.

DOD worked with the Justice De­part­ment to in­ter­pret that the new le­gis­la­tion does not per­mit a blanket re­call of all ci­vil­ian em­ploy­ees.

2:42 p.m. — Sen­ate Demo­crats Warm to House Bill on Fur­loughed Work­ers

Sen­at­ors are try­ing to find an agree­ment that would per­mit pas­sage of the House mini-CR that ret­ro­act­ively funds fed­er­al work­ers, ac­cord­ing to a Demo­crat­ic lead­er­ship aide.

No votes are ex­pec­ted this week­end, and it’s un­clear at this stage when next week a vote could oc­cur, but Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, D-Nev., is sup­port­ive of the idea, the aide said. Be­cause any sen­at­or can block a re­quest to move for­ward on a bill, lead­ers on both sides are still check­ing with sen­at­ors to gauge sup­port. (By Mi­chael Cata­lini)

2:25 p.m. — Some House Re­pub­lic­ans Say It’s Time to ‘Move On’

There were signs Sat­urday that more House Re­pub­lic­ans bey­ond a cadre of 20 or so mod­er­ates may be start­ing to pivot away from a staunch op­pos­i­tion to any fund­ing of Pres­id­ent Obama’s Af­ford­able Care Act in any spend­ing bill to re­open gov­ern­ment. One of those who spoke openly was Rep. Blake Far­enthold, R-Texas.

“We’re try­ing to get the eco­nomy fixed. If we can come up with ways to fix the eco­nomy and get the same bang for the buck you could get with [tar­get­ing] Obama­care, then, let’s do it,” said Far­enthold, adding that he be­lieves the think­ing of some of his oth­er col­leagues also “is evolving.”

Far­enthold was among the 79 co­sign­ers this sum­mer of a let­ter that many see as hav­ing crys­tal­ized the po­s­i­tion of House GOP con­ser­vat­ives that de­fund­ing Obama­care had to be part of any bill Con­gress was sup­posed to pass to keep gov­ern­ment fun­ded by Oct. 1, the start of fisc­al 2014.

But stand­ing Sat­urday out­side of the House cham­ber, Far­enthold said of him­self and some of his col­leagues, “We’re not a bunch of hard-headed fools.” He said that un­do­ing as­pects of “Obama­care’s a big shiny apple that we think will save the eco­nomy, but there are lots of oth­er slightly less shiny apples that can make a big dif­fer­ence — tax re­form, en­ti­tle­ment re­form, reg­u­lat­ory re­form, spend­ing cuts.” Those are some of the things that some Re­pub­lic­ans be­lieve they might be able to achieve in re­turn for agree­ing to in­crease the debt ceil­ing.

“I came up here (to Wash­ing­ton) to make a dif­fer­ence,” ad­ded Far­enthold, elec­ted to the House as part of the tea party wave in 2010. “I did not come up here to kick and scream and sit in my of­fice and not have any­thing ac­com­plished.”

He ad­ded that the Re­pub­lic­ans’ Obama­care battle, “I think, will live and be fought an­oth­er day. Be­cause I think it will col­lapse un­der its own weight, es­pe­cially young people who are go­ing to be un­der the in­di­vidu­al man­date scream­ing about what they are go­ing to pay for full-ser­vice cov­er­age, when they’d be fine with cata­stroph­ic cov­er­age.”

Far­enthold re­futed a sug­ges­tion he may be cav­ing be­cause of pub­lic pres­sure and an­ger over the shut­down.

“Most of the mes­sages we’re get­ting from Texas are, ‘hang on, you’re do­ing the right thing;,” he said. But he ac­know­ledged that calls that his of­fice in Wash­ing­ton is re­ceiv­ing — the ones that caller ID shows as “non-Texas area codes,” he says — “have been some pretty pro­fan­ity-laced phone calls. We’ve had the F-word dropped.”

But he said, “If we can make the same or big­ger dif­fer­ence do­ing something oth­er than [tar­get­ing] Obam­care, I don’t see why we wouldn’t do it.”

An­oth­er Re­pub­lic­an who had signed the Mead­ows let­ter this sum­mer, speak­ing more privately, also sug­ges­ted Sat­urday it was time to “move on.” (By Billy House)

2:12 p.m. — Can­tor: ‘We Will Con­tin­ue to Wait’

Rep. Eric Can­tor, R-Va., sur­roun­ded by fel­low House Re­pub­lic­ans, blas­ted Sen­ate Demo­crats on Sat­urday af­ter­noon for not tak­ing up House-ap­proved bills. There are enough Demo­crats in the oth­er cham­ber to get the bills, which provide fund­ing for some parts of the gov­ern­ment, to the pres­id­ent, he said. But, one re­port­er poin­ted out, there are enough Re­pub­lic­ans in the House to get a clean res­ol­u­tion, which would open and fund the en­tire gov­ern­ment, to the pres­id­ent. Can­tor did not com­ment on the grow­ing ma­jor­ity of House Re­pub­lic­ans who are open to a clean CR, and fo­cused in­stead on the need to delay the in­di­vidu­al man­date of the Af­ford­able Care Act. “We will con­tin­ue to be here this week­end,” the ma­jor­ity lead­er of the House said. “We will con­tin­ue to wait” for word from the camp of Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, D-Nev., about con­ven­ing a con­fer­ence com­mit­tee to “work out our dif­fer­ences.”

1:19 p.m. — House Passes Res­ol­u­tion to Pay Fur­loughed Work­ers

Just be­fore lunch­time, the House un­an­im­ously passed a bill that would ret­ro­act­ively pay the 800,000 fur­loughed fed­er­al em­ploy­ees. The res­ol­u­tion joins sev­er­al oth­er “mini” CRs passed by the House that Sen­ate Demo­crats, who dis­ap­prove of such a piece­meal ap­proach, have threatened to kill. 

12:30 p.m. — House Demo­crats to Boehner: ‘The Games Have to Stop’

Two hun­dred mem­bers of the House Demo­crat­ic Caucus, led by Reps. Tim Bish­op of New York and Patrick Murphy of Flor­ida, sent a let­ter Sat­urday to House Speak­er John Boehner, R-Ohio, de­mand­ing a vote on a clean CR. The au­thors echoed state­ments made by their coun­ter­parts in the Sen­ate all week. “We de­mand a vote on a clean con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion im­me­di­ately so that gov­ern­ment func­tion­ing can re­sume and Amer­ic­ans can move on with their lives,” they write. “The games have to stop.” The push to de­fund or delay the Af­ford­able Care Act, they say, has gone too far and put the U.S. eco­nomy at risk.

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