Obama Chides GOP on Shutdown
Washington — With Washington barreling toward a government shutdown, a deadlocked Congress entered the final weekend of the fiscal year with no clear ideas of how to avoid furloughs for more than 800,000 federal workers. Millions more could be left without paychecks.
The Senate on Friday approved a stopgap government funding bill and promptly departed, leaving all of the pressure to find a solution on House Republican leaders.
President Obama weighed in, sternly lecturing GOP leaders that the easiest path forward was to approve the Senate’s bill, which includes money for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the president’s prized legislation achievement, which he signed into law in 2010. But a far-right bloc of House and Senate Republicans banded together to leave House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, virtually powerless to act.
“My message to Congress is this: Do not shut down the government. Do not shut down the economy. Pass a budget on time,” Obama said in the White House press briefing room.
Boehner’s leadership team offered no public comment and remained out of sight most of Friday, hunkering down for another weekend on the brink. For Boehner, this is the latest in a series of unstable moments that have become the hallmark of his three-year run as speaker.
With a stroke-of-midnight deadline on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Democrats would reject any conservative add-ons that Boehner might attach to the funding bill. That would further delay passage, and given the staunch opposition from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who has said that he will make no concession to help move the process along, the slow-moving Senate would require up to a week to approve something even if Reid were amenable to the changes. That sets the stage for a shutdown Tuesday.
“We’ve passed the only bill that can avert a government shutdown Monday night. I said this on the floor, I say it again: This is it, time is gone,” Reid said Friday after the midday passage of the funding bill on a party-line vote.
Before that final roll call, Cruz’s attempt to filibuster the legislation was throttled in a bipartisan 79-to-19 vote, but the first-year senator drew support from nearly half the rank-and-file Republicans in defiance of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Cruz confirmed reports that he has been huddling with House conservatives to help plot their strategy to force Boehner’s hand on the health-care law. “I am confident if the House listens to the people, as it did last week, that it will continue to step forward and respond to the suffering that is coming from Obamacare,” Cruz told reporters Friday, saying he has had “numerous conversations” with House Republicans.
Those Republicans upended a strategy crafted by Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to first advance legislation related to the federal borrowing limit, including more demands to delay the health-care law, then allow government funding to be approved.
That plan required the GOP leaders to draw all votes from their side of the aisle — 217 of the 232 Republicans — and instead the Cruz-led contingent hold more than enough votes to sabotage any moves by Boehner and Cantor.
Those House Republicans late Friday offered their version of what they want attached to the funding resolution and sent back to the Senate: an amendment delaying until 2015 implementation of all the health law’s taxes, mandates and benefits as well as its provisions aimed at squeezing savings from Medicare.