Day 19: Kwame Holman Report on the Budget Showdown
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KWAME HOLMAN: On the Senate floor yesterday, Majority Leader Robert Dole declared it was time to end the partial government shutdown.
SEN. ROBERT DOLE, Majority Leader: (Yesterday) But to say that they can’t work and they can’t be paid until we put together an agreement, to me, you know, again, there are some of my colleagues in the House who feel just as strongly the other way, but I don’t quite understand the logic of all that. And I would hope that we have quick action and people have been gone from their jobs long enough. Enough is enough.
KWAME HOLMAN: With that, Senate Republicans and Democrats agreed to fund the furloughed portions of the government for a few days while the ongoing budget negotiations between the President and congressional Republicans continued. But House Republicans signaled right away they might not go along. On Capitol Hill this morning, Democrats seized on the apparent split between Senate Republicans and their harder line House colleagues.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE, Minority Leader: We hope that the Speaker will see fit to do what Sen. Dole has done, and that is to pass a clean continuing resolution into, well into next week, to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of federal employees whose lives have been shaken. There’s absolutely no reason why federal employees can’t be sent back to work. I know there’s been some confusion about where the responsibility lies. Well, there ought to be any confusion anymore. We now know exactly where the problem lies. The problem lies with House Republican leadership and their intransigence, their unwillingness to send federal employees back to work.
KWAME HOLMAN: Today marks the official midway point of the 104th Congress, and both Houses met the constitutional mandate to convene on January 3rd.
REP. NEWT GINGRICH, Speaker of the House: The clerk will utilize the electronic system to ascertain the presence of a quorum. Members will record their presence by electronic device.
KWAME HOLMAN: In the House of Representatives, the day was noted with a ceremonial roll call. After the ceremonies, Minority Leader Richard Gephardt tried to introduce the Senate’s bipartisan resolution to send furloughed workers back to their jobs.
SPOKESPERSON: Whereas over 280,000 federal employees have been barred from performing the jobs for which they will eventually be paid–
KWAME HOLMAN: But to get to a vote, Gephardt first had to clear a procedural hurdle erected by the Republicans. The measure had to conform to the standard of a so-called privileged resolution.
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT, Minority Leader: Right now, every member of this House is being prevented from fulfilling our most basic duties and obligation. That’s why I believe this is a matter of privilege under Rule 9 of this House, which states very clearly that matters of privilege are those affecting the House collectively, as well as its dignity and integrity.
KWAME HOLMAN: Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas spoke for the Republican leadership.
REP. DICK ARMEY, Majority Leader: Mr. Speaker, I do not believe this is a question of privilege. And Mr. Speaker, I take umbrage at the Minority Leader’s use of the time allotted to him to speak on the question of privilege of the House to give what can only be characterized as a political speech. In my opinion, the gentleman does not have a resolution that constitutes a question of privilege of the House, and I urge the chair to so rule and let me just say in so doing that I share the gentleman from Missouri’s consternation over the President shutting down the government.
KWAME HOLMAN: After 30 minutes of argument, Pennsylvania’s Robert Walker ruled on behalf of the Republican leadership.
REP. ROBERT WALKER, (R) Pennsylvania: The chair holds that the resolution offered by the gentleman from Missouri does not affect “the rights of the House collectively, its safety, dignity, or the integrity of its proceedings,” within the meeting of Clause 1 of Rule 9.
KWAME HOLMAN: After putting down the Democratic insurgency, Republicans reasserted their position on ending the government shutdown.
REP. TODD TIAHRT, (R) Kansas: The President signed a continuing resolution that said he would come up with a balanced budget by the end of this year but in the first session of the 104th Congress, which was December 31st, but he failed to do so. And I have to admit I’m very frustrated, and I think we here in Congress are very frustrated. What does it take for the President to keep his word?
REP. SONNY BONO, (R) California: So as soon as the President decides to keep his word, that’s what you got to understand Mr. President–Chairman, is that he has to keep his word, and his word was that he would sign a balanced budget scored by CBO. I hope he keeps his word, sir.
KWAME HOLMAN: This afternoon, House Republican leaders officially rejected the Dole plan to end the partial shutdown.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, (R) Ohio: We’re thinking about the 260 million American people who are paying higher interest rates on their mortgages because of our failure to balance the budget for 30 years, higher student loan rates, higher rates on their car loans, and a bleaker future for our children and grandchildren because Washington won’t do what it should do, and that’s to meet its fiduciary responsibility to match revenues with expenses and balance the budget.
KWAME HOLMAN: As the latest impasse settled in, House Republicans revived their standing offer to bring up the spending bills vetoed by the President as a way of ending the shutdown, but virtually no one expects they can muster the 2/3 vote needed to override those presidential vetoes.