TOPICS > Politics

Shutdown Showdown

January 4, 1996 at 12:00 AM EDT


KWAME HOLMAN: The 20th day of the partial government shutdown came and went with Congress doing very little about it.

SPOKESMAN: On this vote, the yeahs are 239; the nays are 177; 2/3 not having voted in the affirmative, the bill is rejected.

KWAME HOLMAN: The only action in the House was its failure to override the President’s veto of the Interior Department Appropriations Bill, assuring that some 133,000 federal workers–half the furloughed work force–won’t be returning to work soon. The debate was predictably partisan.

REP. BOB LIVINGSTON, Chairman, Appropriations Committee: The problem that we have is this was, indeed, a carefully crafted piece of legislation that met demands from liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats on both sides of the capital, and despite the fact that it was retuned on many occasions when it went to the President, he vetoed it. Let me underscore that. He vetoed this bill, and the parks, the museums, and all of the other good effects of this bill have been disregarded for the Christmas holidays.

REP. EDWARD MARKEY, (D) Massachusetts: The parks are closed down for one very simple reason. The Republicans have yet to receive their crown jewel in the Contract with America, which is a $245 billion tax break for the rich in America! And you guys are holding up the whole federal government in order to get that! And whether it be the parks or Medicare or student loans, you’re going to hold your breath until you get that $245 billion to fulfill your contract with a country club in America! But don’t lay off the closing of the federal parks on Bill Clinton!

KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, Democratic leaders determined to pin the blame for the shutdown on the Republicans invited the head of the Small Business Administration to Capitol Hill to give his view of the shutdown.

PHILIP LADER, Small Business Administration: About 260 small business loans each day are not being closed right now, because we operate today as a public/private partnership with 7,000 banks making these loans with a partial government guarantee. That’s $40 million a day of private capital, private capital, not being extended to small businesses because of the shutdown of the SBA.

KWAME HOLMAN: And a Washington, D.C. dry cleaner whose clientele is made up largely of government workers pleaded for an end to the shutdown.

MI RUDENACKER, Businesswoman: These days since the government has shut down, I don’t have no business. I have to pay the rent. I have to pay my employees. These days the suffering is tremendously. Please open the government. I don’t care who’s at fault, who’s wrong. Please open the government and let us pay–work and pay the tax.

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT, Minority Leader: It is unthinkable for this majority in the Congress–and now it’s just in the House, not in the Senate, the majority in the Senate has sent over a clean continuing resolution, so it is just the majority in the House that is impeding progress on getting this government running again.

KWAME HOLMAN: But on the floor of the Senate, Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici said House Republicans don’t deserve the entire blame.

SEN. PETE DOMENICI, Chairman, Budget Committee: At least it is a two-way street from here to Pennsylvania Avenue. And when Presidents veto bills that fund government, they take a bit of the responsibility of what will happen if Congress chooses not to fund some of those.

KWAME HOLMAN: But there was late word that action to end the shutdown could come tonight.

REP. NEWT GINGRICH, Speaker of the House: Well, I think we’ll have a conference this evening of all the House Republican members, and at that time after the conference, when the members get a full chance to participate, we’ll have a press briefing.

KWAME HOLMAN: The Speaker, reportedly, will offer his colleagues a plan that would allow furloughed federal workers to return to work with pay, but without funds for full government operations.