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
Michael Catalin and Billy House
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Michael Catalin Billy House
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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