Government Shuts Down and Fight Continues

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 27: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) (C), Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) (R), and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) (L) speak to members of the media after a vote on the Senate floor September 27, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Senate has passed a continuing resolution 54-44 to fund the government through November 15 with the exclusion of defunding the Obama care in which the provision was passed in the House.
National Journal
Billy House and Michael Catalini
Billy House Michael Catalini
Sept. 30, 2013, 8:08 p.m.

The first shut­down of gov­ern­ment agen­cies in al­most two dec­ades be­came a real­ity late Monday night as the House and Sen­ate were un­able to pass a stop­gap fund­ing meas­ure by the start of the new fisc­al year Tues­day.

As hard-line House Re­pub­lic­ans de­man­ded that any fund­ing bill con­tain anti-Obama­care pro­vi­sions, the Sen­ate stead­fastly re­fused to go along, des­pite a flurry of le­gis­lat­ive man­euvers on Monday.

The res­ult was that the out­come lead­ers in both parties said they wanted to avoid was an­nounced in a memo from the ad­min­is­tra­tion to agen­cies shortly be­fore mid­night, dir­ect­ing them to shut down parts of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.

The ab­sence of a spend­ing plan means as many as 800,000 non­es­sen­tial fed­er­al work­ers could be fur­loughed; hun­dreds of thou­sands of oth­ers could be asked to work without pay (though Pres­id­ent Obama signed a meas­ure to en­sure mil­it­ary per­son­nel will be paid in a shut­down); fed­er­al of­fices and parks will be closed; and gov­ern­ment ser­vices will be scaled back or hal­ted for vet­er­ans, seni­ors, and oth­ers. Medi­care, So­cial Se­cur­ity, mil­it­ary work, and pub­lic-safety func­tions will con­tin­ue.

So will the fight in Con­gress. Fol­low­ing a 1 a.m. vote in which the House de­cided 228-199 to re­quest form­al, two-cham­ber con­fer­ence com­mit­tee ne­go­ti­ations with the Sen­ate, House Speak­er John Boehner said, “Un­der the con­sti­tu­tion there is a way to re­solve this pro­cess. That is to go to con­fer­ence and talk through your dif­fer­ences.”

“We’re hop­ing that the Sen­ate will take our of­fer to go to con­fer­ence,” Boehner said.

Yet Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, D-Nev., said on the Sen­ate floor shortly be­fore mid­night Monday that Demo­crats plan to re­ject the pro­pos­al. He said that would be the first or­der of busi­ness when the Sen­ate re­con­venes at 9:30 a.m. Tues­day.

Re­id and oth­er Demo­crats con­tin­ued to in­sist that Boehner, R-Ohio, and oth­er House lead­ers al­low a vote on the Sen­ate’s six-month fund­ing bill, which con­tains no anti-Obama riders. They in­sist it will pass.

“I would hope they would un­der­stand it is with­in their power, at any time; all they have to do is ac­cept what we already passed,” Re­id said.

Re­id also said: “We will not go to con­fer­ence with a gun to our heads.”

So ended a day of un­cer­tainty and frus­tra­tion on Cap­it­ol Hill in which an el­ev­enth-hour deal between the House and Sen­ate proved elu­sive, des­pite a great deal of le­gis­lat­ive jock­ey­ing.

First the House amended the con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion with a pro­vi­sion for­cing mem­bers of Con­gress and their staffs to rely on Obama­care for their health cov­er­age. The latest anti-Obama­care amend­ment, like two oth­ers be­fore it, was quickly re­jec­ted with a par­tis­an vote in the Sen­ate, leav­ing the House, again, with only a “clean” fund­ing bill.

A bi­par­tis­an group of sen­at­ors was try­ing to forge a new con­sensus around go­ing to con­fer­ence with the House. “What we are try­ing to fig­ure out is what the House is able to do,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska. “It’s really easy to do Monday-morn­ing quar­ter­back­ing from here.”

Asked wheth­er she thought the group could avert a shut­down, she said, “No,” but crossed her fin­gers so a re­port­er was cer­tain to see. Murkowski also ac­know­ledged that the plan would be polit­ic­ally risky for Boehner, who could be cri­ti­cized by con­ser­vat­ive mem­bers of his con­fer­ence who want to see the Af­ford­able Care Act dis­mantled.

“Boy oh boy, if we had the plan, we’d get it over to the House,” she said.

Mean­while, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the ar­chi­tect of the GOP ap­proach to try to force Demo­crats to ca­pit­u­late, called on the Re­pub­lic­ans to con­tin­ue the fight.

Cruz also offered to donate his salary to char­ity dur­ing a gov­ern­ment shut­down, be­cause law­makers con­tin­ue to get paid. Blam­ing Re­id for the shut­down, Cruz ar­gued that the ma­jor­ity lead­er was not com­prom­ising.

“Elec­ted lead­ers should not be treated bet­ter than the Amer­ic­an people, which is pre­cisely why hard­work­ing Amer­ic­ans de­serve the same Obama­care ex­cep­tion that Pres­id­ent Obama has already gran­ted Mem­bers of Con­gress,” Cruz said in a state­ment.

Sen­ate Demo­crats had no de­fec­tions when Re­id moved to table the House’s amend­ments three times over the past sev­er­al days. Those in­cluded de­fund­ing Obama­care; delay­ing Obama­care and re­peal­ing a med­ic­al-device tax; and fi­nally for­cing Obama­care on Con­gress and the White House.

“The bot­tom line then is this. House Re­pub­lic­ans face the same is­sues they faced yes­ter­day and the day be­fore and the day be­fore and the day be­fore. Let the Sen­ate’s clean [CR] pass,” Re­id said.

Demo­crats be­lieve the pub­lic will blame the GOP for a shut­down, sug­gest­ing they think the blame game will play out as it did dur­ing the last shut­down in 1995 and 1996.

“To think that be­cause of his will­ful fac­tion of tea-party Re­pub­lic­ans, he would al­low this gov­ern­ment to shut down, and con­tin­ue to pay these games back and forth, is just in­ex­cus­able, in­ex­cus­able for any­one who calls him­self a lead­er,” said Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., re­fer­ring to Boehner.

Re­id also wants to make a point to Re­pub­lic­ans, who he has re­cently taken to call­ing “an­arch­ists.”

“With a bully, you can­not let them slap you around, be­cause they slap you around today, it’s they slap you five or six times, to­mor­row it’s sev­en or eight times,” Re­id said. “We are not go­ing to be bul­lied.”

Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans could do little but watch Demo­crats work their will. Be­cause of the Sen­ate’s rules, Re­pub­lic­ans could not ex­er­cise the fili­buster on the CR, ac­cord­ing to aides.

Sen. Bob Cork­er, R-Tenn., has been one of the loudest op­pon­ents of Cruz’s quest to tear down the Af­ford­able Care Act by us­ing the lever­age af­forded by a fund­ing meas­ure. “I’m not frus­trated,” he said. “I’m not frus­trated in the least. I think this was — we kind of all knew where this was gonna end.”

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