No compromise: Government on brink of shutdown?
With four days to go before the federal government is due to run out of money, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., left, looks at a countdown clock during a news conference on Capitol in Washington on Thursday, where Senate Democratic leaders blamed conservative Republicans for holding up a stopgap spending bill to keep the government running. AP photo
WASHINGTON — Moving closer to the brink of a government shutdown, House Republicans vowed Thursday they won’t simply accept the stopgap legislation that is likely to remain after Senate Democrats strip away a plan to dismantle President Barack Obama’s health care law.
The defiant posture sets the stage for weekend drama on Capitol Hill after the Senate on Friday sends the fractious House a straightforward bill to keep the government operating through Nov. 15 rather than partly closing down at midnight Monday.
Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and several rank-and-file Repub-licans said the House simply won’t accept a “clean” spending measure, even though that’s been the norm in Congress on dozens of occasions since the 1995-96 government closures.
“I don’t see that happening,” Boehner said. Still, he declared that “I have no interest in a government shutdown” and he doesn’t expect one to occur on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the Democratic-led chamber will not relent.
“The Senate will never pass a bill that guts the Affordable Care Act,” Reid declared.
A partial government shutdown would keep hundreds of thousands of federal workers off the job, close national parks and generate damaging headlines for whichever side the public held responsible.
Washington faces two deadlines: The Oct. 1 start of the new budget year and a mid-October date — now estimated for the 17th — when the government can no longer borrow money to pay its bills on time and in full.
The first deadline requires Congress to pass a spending bill to allow agencies to stay open. The mid-month deadline requires Congress to increase the government’s $16.7 trillion borrowing cap to avoid a first-ever default on its payments, which include interest obligations, Social Security benefits, payments to thousands of contractors large and small, and salaries for the military.
Not far from the Capitol, at a community college in Largo, Md., Obama insisted he would not negotiate over his signature domestic achievement, either on a bill to keep the government operating or legislation to raise the nation’s borrowing authority.
“The entire world looks to us to make sure that the world economy is stable. You don’t mess with that,” Obama said of the debt ceiling/default measure. “And that’s why I will not negotiate on anything when it comes to the full faith and credit of the United States of America.”
Responding to Obama’s non-negotiable stand, Boehner said, “Well, I’m sorry but it just doesn’t work that way.”
House GOP leaders said Thursday they would unveil their own legislation to lift the government’s borrowing cap through December of next year, but only if the new health care law is delayed for a year.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, insisted that the House accept the Senate bill.
“Republicans have got to put an end to the tea party temper tantrums and pass our bill without any gimmicks and without any games,” she said.