October 2, 2013
As the federal government shutdown enters day two, hundreds of thousands of employees are officially off the job, and uncertain whether they will be paid for their forced time off. Stay tuned here for ongoing updates on the situation from our friends at National Journal.
5:43 p.m.—The Numbers Are There for a Clean CR in the House
In the last two days, House Republicans have begun breaking rank and saying they are willing to pass a clean resolution, no health care strings attached. The number of those Republicans grew to 18 Wednesday afternoon, which creates enough votes—if all 200 Democrats come together—to pass the bill. That all depends, however, on whether House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, wants to put the legislation to a vote on the floor. Before going into a meeting with President Obama and other congressional leaders at the White House Wednesday night, Boehner made it clear he wasn't budging. (By Marina Koren)
4:45 p.m.—Senate to Adjourn Until Tomorrow
The Senate will adjourn until 10:30 a.m. Thursday, setting up a third day of the government shutdown.
4:05 p.m.—Presiding Officer of the House Gavels Away as Democrats Ask for Clean CR
Democrat after Democrat is stepping up to the podium on the House floor to request to go to conference on a clean CR, only to be sent away from the podium by the presiding officer. "My inquiry is, who is the speaker of the House? Is it John Boehner or Ted Cruz?" said Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., during his turn. (By Marina Koren)
3:39 p.m.—Republican and Democratic Organizations Quarrel over Closed Memorial
The Republican National Committee announced this afternoon that it plans to cover the cost of keeping the World War II Memorial, closed due to the shutdown, open for the next 30 days. ""That's not right, and it's not fair. So the RNC has put aside enough money to hire five security personnel to keep this memorial open to veterans and visitors," the statement read, and invited the Democratic National Committee to foot the bill. The DNC shot back soon after: "We've already been working on a plan to open the Memorial—and the entire government—after the GOP caused them to close. It's called a clean funding resolution and it sounds like the votes are there if the Speaker would just call for a vote." (By Marina Koren)
3:05 p.m.—From a Government Shutdown over Obamacare, to a Grand Bargain?
Some members of the conservative Republican Study Committee emerged from their afternoon meeting Wednesday saying that talk is the big White House meeting later in the day between President Obama and congressional leaders will go beyond trying to resolve the government shutdown.
"There's a discussion about a grand bargain, that the talks are about some deal that will tie in the debt ceiling and a CR (short-term funding bill that would reopen government)," said one conservative.
In fact, that's the word several other RSC members, and other lawmakers who not part of that group, said they're getting, also, although from exactly they would not say.
Obama is to meet with Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., at about 5:30.
If it's true that the leaders will be discussing or working toward some deal to reopen government that would also include addressing raising the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling, that would represent an amazing turn-around from, at least publicly, appears to be a complete stand-off over the shutdown.
The Treasury has said the nation's debt cap will be reached in mid-October. Unless its ability to borrow is extended, the U.S. could go into default. But Republicans have said they will seek spending cuts and other items in return for raising the debt ceiling, while Obama and Reid have said Democrats will not bargain over the ability to pay. (By Billy House)
2:12 p.m.—The Logic Behind Reid's Proposal And Why He's Not Really Budging
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., wrote House Speaker John Boehner a letter that counters the House GOP argument he won't negotiate.
In the letter, Reid offers to appoint conferees to a budget conference to work out the sharp disagreements between Democrats and Republicans. The proposal suggests doing what the House wanted when it passed a resolution insisting on delaying the individual mandate and appointing conferees to an appropriations conference.
But there's a difference.
What the House sought to do was appoint conferees over the continuing resolution. What Reid wants is what Senate Democrats have been trying to achieve since Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., shepherded her budget through the slog of a floor fight in March.
Senate Democrats think they've got House Republicans cornered here. When a reporter asked whether the Democrats really were offering to compromise since they've wanted this larger budget conference all along, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., pressed the Democrats' position.
"No, well you say what's changed from two days ago?" said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "The Republicans have said please let us talk and go to conference. So we're taking them up on their offer, provided—with just one provided and an important one—that they open the government."
Democrats want to get to conference over the budget because they disagree with Republicans over the so-called topline spending figure, and they want to see sequestration cuts rolled back.
But a budget conference has other advantages for Reid. A budget conference report would not be subject to amendment, neither would it be subject to a filibuster, according to the Senate parliamentarian's office.
So, that means Reid would not need to get to 60 votes to send a budget conference report to the president's desk.
To make their point about repeatedly requesting a budget conference, Reid and Murray planned to request a budget conference on the floor Wednesday afternoon, according to Budget Committee spokesman Eli Zupnick. (By Michael Catalini)
1:44 p.m.—Boehner Responds to Reid's Written Plea
Boehner's office has a response to Reid's letter to the speaker. Boehner spokesman Michael Steel says in a statement the government is shut down because of Democrats' refusal "to even talk about fairness for all Americans under Obamacare." He continues:
"Offering to negotiate only after Democrats get everything they want is not much of an offer. Today, the House will continue to pass bills that reflect the American people's priorities. The Senate passed the troop funding bill this weekend—will they now say 'no' to funding for veterans, our National Parks and the National Institutes of Health?"
The Senate hadn't passed a budget in four years until March 2013, when Senate Democrats passed one out of the chamber under the leadership of its new budget chair, Patty Murray. The House also managed to pass the latest version of Chairman Paul Ryan's budget blueprint this spring.
Still, the two plans were light years' apart. Since then, Senate Democrats' efforts to appoint budget conferees have been blocked by Republicans in the House. They argue that the two parties must agree on a 'framework' for a potential budget deal before anyone goes to conference. (By Elahe Izadi and Nancy Cook)
12:50 p.m.—Reid to Boehner: I Hated Iraq War Like You Hate Obamacare
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., passed along a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Wednesday afternoon as the House took a recess. Reid compared his frustration at the start of the Iraq War to Boehner's fight against the Affordable Care act. "I could have taken the steps that you are taking now to block government funding in order to gain the leverage to end the war," he wrote. "I faced a lot of pressure from my own base to take that action. But I did not do that."
Open the government by passing a clean CR, Reid said, and the Senate leader would name conferees to a budget conference to discuss fiscal issues. From the photo, it looks like Reid, who signed the letter with only his first name, handwrote "John" over the typed "Mr. Boehner," perhaps to cast the message as a personal plea. (By Marina Koren)
12:18 p.m.—McConnell Skeptical of White House Meeting
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell responded with skepticism to President Obama's offer to host him and three other congressional leaders at the White House at 5:30 p.m. today.
"Just yesterday, the president reaffirmed that he would not negotiate with Congress, and Senate Democrats actually voted not to negotiate," said McConnell's office in a statement. "So frankly, we're a little confused as to the purpose of this meeting."
McConnell also thinks that if the president wants to reopen the government, he should tell Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to agree to convene a conference with the House.
Reid has said the path to reopen the government is for the House to pass the Senate's six-week CR. (By Michael Catalini)
11:36 a.m.—All Honor Flight Veterans Now Allowed in WWII Memorial
It looks like public pressure was too much for the National Park Service. Now, all Honor Flights veterans are allowed to enter the World War II Memorial.
For the last two days, veterans and lawmakers have flooded the memorial, attempting to enter. The National Park Service is allowing it under the shutdown rule that says "First Amendment activities" are allowed at closed memorials. This apparently qualifies.
11:35 a.m.—With Many of His Staffers Furloughed, Sen. Manchin Is Working the Phones
People walking into the D.C. office of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., for their scheduled meetings encountered an unusual sight this morning: Manchin working the phones.
"Hello Terry, this is Joe," Manchin says to one caller, upset about how the new healthcare law may affect his union benefits. "Buddy, let it rip."
A staff assistant typically answers constituent calls in the front of senators' offices, but those personnel have been furloughed in Manchin's office. Around the corner, offices for Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Chris Murphy had signs up saying they were closed with phone numbers to call. Others, such as that of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, were open with staff inside.
So when Manchin arrived to his office around 9:45 a.m. and heard the phones ringing, he sat down and picked up, according to an aide. And he kept going as people in suits arrived for their scheduled meetings.
Manchin's office received about 200 voicemails from constituents yesterday, and many of those callers wanted to know whether the various social services were still available. It's not unusual to receive about 500 calls a day when there's a hot-button issue in the news, according to Manchin's office.
"The only thing I'm asking my friends on the other side, the Republicans, is if they'll just allow a continuing resolution to run the government and we'll go into what we call, discussions on this, and see if we can work through it," Manchin tells another caller concerned about the shutdown. "But to shut government down because you don't agree with certain things is just wrong."
The caller says something back, to which Manchin responds, "I know, honey, it's awful."
West Virginians wanting to talk to Manchin may want to try and give his office a ring later; he'll be manning the phones in between his scheduled meetings today. (By Elahe Izadi)
11:26 a.m.—President Obama Invites Congressional Leaders to White House
President Obama invited Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to the White House on Wednesday to discuss the government shutdown and the need to raise the national debt ceiling, the White House announced. According to a GOP Senate source, the meeting will be at 5:30 p.m.
In response, Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said, "We're pleased the president finally recognizes that his refusal to negotiate is indefensible." He added, "It's unclear why we'd be having this meeting if it's not meant to be a start to serious talks between the two parties." (By Matt Vasilogambros and Billy House)
11:06 a.m.—White House Issues Veto Threat on New House Bills
Though the House intends to continue its strategy of trying to pass small bills that aim to fund only certain parts of the federal government, the White House on Wednesday said President Obama would veto any of these bills if they reached his desk.
"Instead of opening up a few government functions, the House of Representatives should re-open all of the government," the White House said in a statement.
However, if they passed the House, the Senate would likely reject the measures. Speaking before the Senate on Wednesday, Majority Leader Harry Reid called on Republicans to open the government in full.
"Reopening the only parts of government that they like isn't a responsible solution," Reid said. "The Senate has a plan to reopen the government while we work out our budget differences. If Republicans really want to reopen the government, they should just go ahead and reopen the government. They've had that power all along."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., still blames Senate Democrats and the president for the shutdown, focusing on what he perceived as the failures of the Affordable Care Act.
"Look, this week, Washington Democrats had a choice—defend basic principles of fairness when it comes to Obamacare, or shut down the government," McConnell said. "They chose the latter. It was wrong." (By Matt Vasilogambros)
10:54 a.m.—Some Democrats Continue to Stand Their Ground, Others Begin Bucking Leadership
Feeling that the public will largely blame Republicans for the shutdown, and with the next step of the Affordable Care Act already kicking into gear, life really isn't all that bad for the Democrats right now. Sure, the need to grit their teeth when they hear talking points from Republicans reverberate through the House gallery ("The president will negotiate with the President of Iran, but not with Republicans!"), but many feel that if they can just hold tight, they will emerge from the shutdown victorious. But doing so may be more difficult than many of them had hoped.
And yet, there are signs of fracturing within the party. Last night, 48 Democrats bucked leadership by voting for bills that would fund distinct parts of the government (one for veterans, one for the District of Columbia, and one for national parks).
"It's really offensive," Rep Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., said about an approach to fund just parts of the government and not others. "And you have Democrats enabling them in the process."
Grijalva said that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has made a compelling case to the caucus that the best approach is to "hold the line and make people really negotiate," and that voting for this Republican offer is not helpful.
"I don't want to criticize my colleagues for how they are voting, but they have to realize that this is not over," he said.
Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., voted for all three of the small budget bills and admitted that he knows it's not a popular move in his party. Still, he says, it's more important to be "reasonable" than to be popular.
"I think we need to talk to one another instead of taking positions that we cannot find common ground," he said. "I'm really angry about the behavior on both sides of the aisle." (By Ben Terris)
UPDATE, 9:56 a.m.—Who Owns the Shutdown?
The budget debate has spawned another that seemed to dominate speeches and statements on Monday: Who is to blame for the government shutdown? President Obama called it the "Republican shutdown." The GOP said the president and Senate Majority Harry Reid, D-Nev., are at fault because of their refusal to negotiate. On Twitter, it seems, everyone is responsible: #HarryReidsShutdown, #RepublicanShutdown, #ObamaShutDown and other similar hashtags are making their rounds. With no end in sight for the shutdown, expect more finger-pointing this week.
October 2, 2013