With Democrats and Republicans squabbling fiercely over how to reopen the government, it’s Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — the former boxer — who compares lawmakers’ bickering to a schoolyard brawl.
“We are not going to be bullied,” Reid said Tuesday. “We have done everything we can, and we’ve done it very reasonably.”
As Reid’s 54-seat majority is tested to the limit by the first government shutdown in 17 years, the Nevada Democrat’s strategy has been simple: Do not give in to Republican demands to undo, excise, or delay any part of the Affordable Care Act.
It’s a strategy that has pressure-tested unity among Senate Democrats, who have so far stood fast in a series of high-profile votes to turn away House proposals that would have ended the standoff but handed Republicans something to brag about.
“This is a democracy. This cannot be how we govern,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. “And I think that has been one of Harry Reid’s strongest messages: We cannot hand them the stick to beat us with.”
Whether Reid can hold Democrats together as the shutdown drags on — there is no sign that it will end in coming days — remains unclear. But House Republicans have already scaled back their offers, going from a full repeal of Obamacare, to a full delay, to a delay of a piece of the program. Reid, backed by his caucus and President Obama, has remained steady in his insistence that House Republicans adopt the continuing resolution the Senate passed on Friday.
The latest House suggestion involves adopting a piecemeal approach to funding government, with individual resolutions to fund national parks, Veterans Affairs, and the District of Columbia. Reid shot that idea down, too.
“Here’s their plan: Some of the rabble-rousers over there have said what they want to do is take little pieces of the government “¦ and this will go on for weeks, but what won’t get funded is Obamacare,” he said, adding that “this is not serious.”
Republicans say Reid refuses to negotiate and compromise, and that he’s making life difficult for some Democrats facing reelection next year. But if any Democrats are sweating, they have nonetheless stood by Reid.
“I think he’s been very clear and absolutely right about what’s at stake here,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. “So I give him very high marks. It’s clear we have the votes here in the [Senate] to keep the government open. The House won’t allow a vote on it. I think Senator Reid’s been very effective in pointing that out.”
Senate Democrats insist that House Republicans will ultimately shoulder the brunt of public anger over the shutdown, but that’s a tide that could run both ways. Thus far, Reid and his allies don’t seem to fear any backlash.
“He’s done a really good job,” Warren said. “He’s held everyone together.”
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"Even if House Republicans manage to get enough members of their party on board with the latest version of their health care bill, they will face another battle in the Senate: whether the bill complies with the chamber’s arcane ... Byrd rule, which stipulates all provisions in a reconciliation bill must affect federal spending and revenues in a way that is not merely incidental." Democrats should have the advantage in that fight, "unless the Senate pulls another 'nuclear option.'”
The House has passed a one-week spending bill that will avert a government shutdown which was set to begin at midnight. Lawmakers now have an extra week to come to a longer agreement which is expected to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass before President Trump signs it.
President Trump’s portrayal of an effort to funnel more Medicaid dollars to Puerto Rico as a "bailout" is complicating negotiations over a continuing resolution on the budget. "House Democrats are now requiring such assistance as a condition for supporting the continuing resolution," a position that the GOP leadership is amenable to. "But Mr. Trump’s apparent skepticism aligns him with conservative House Republicans inclined to view its request as a bailout, leaving the deal a narrow path to passage in Congress."
Democrats in the House are threatening to shut down the government if Republicans expedite a vote on a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, said Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer Thursday. Lawmakers have introduced a one-week spending bill to give themselves an extra week to reach a long-term funding deal, which seemed poised to pass easily. However, the White House is pressuring House Republicans to take a vote on their Obamacare replacement Friday to give Trump a legislative victory, though it is still not clear that they have the necessary votes to pass the health care bill. This could go down to the wire.