Day Two of the Government Shutdown
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JIM LEHRER: The government of the United States of America remains partially shut down. The parties who brought it about, the President and the Republican congressional leadership, remain mostly hunkered down. And our coverage begins with a report by Kwame Holman.
SPOKESMAN: The chair will accept fifteen one-minutes from each side.
KWAME HOLMAN: At the beginning of each legislative day, members of the House of Representatives are given the opportunity to speak out on any issue they wish, as long as they keep their remarks to one minute.
REP. SAM JOHNSON, (R) Texas: Mr. Speaker, the President’s intentions are now crystal clear. This President’s willing to sacrifice our children’s future to satisfy his thirst for more spending, more taxes, and more bureaucracy.
KWAME HOLMAN: Of course, the one issue most members chose to talk about today was the budget impasse and resulting government shutdown.
REP. BARBARA KENNELLY, (D) Connecticut: Mr. Speaker, if today were a normal day, 28,000 people would be planning to apply for Social Security, 16,000 veterans would be filing their new claims for compensation, 900 more would be claiming their benefits under the Montgomery GI Bill. If today were a normal day, three quarters of a million people would be getting up in the morning, planning to visit one of our, our national parks. But this is not a normal day. This is a day that the government is closed down.
KWAME HOLMAN: But once the House got down to business today, no one proposed any emergency legislation that might temporarily resolve the crisis. It was just business as usual.
REP. SONNY CALLAHAN, (R) Alabama: Mr. Speaker, I call up from the Speaker’s table the bill HR 1868, making appropriations for foreign operations, export financing, and related programs for fiscal year 1996.
KWAME HOLMAN: One might wonder why Congress is turning its attention to foreign operations when the operations of this country have been slowed to a crawl. The fact is unless Congress approves and the President signs the foreign operations and nine other appropriation bills this crisis might not get resolved.
REP. SONNY CALLAHAN: Mr. Speaker, under the present circumstances, we must move to do whatever is needed to move all of the remaining appropriation bills to the President’s desk just as soon as we possibly can. Each appropriation bill the President signs will put more agencies back in business.
KWAME HOLMAN: But with no budget negotiations scheduled between the White House and the Congress, it’s unlikely the crisis of government shutdown will be resolved quickly. And that’s beginning to weigh on members like 16-term Democrat Lee Hamilton of Indiana.
REP. LEE HAMILTON, (D) Indiana: Oh, I think my constituents are saying they just don’t understand the impasse, they’re frustrated by it, they think the politicians are being too political, that we ought to reach an agreement and move on. They’re very frustrated. Nobody wins on this. I know the polls tend to show that either the President is doing a little better or the Republicans’ leadership, but the real feeling, I think, is that those of us who are leaders are not performing as the people want us to perform. We’re not doing our job.
KWAME HOLMAN: Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed represents mostly middle class blue collar workers in Providence and Cranston.
REP. JACK REED, (D) Rhode Island: My phone calls are indicating a deep disquiet about this whole process. They’re upset, they’re concerned, but generally, we’re getting calls from people who individually feel threatened. They have a problem with the Social Security Administration; they can’t get any answers. They’re afraid of not getting their Social Security checks. They have–veterans who have a question about the VA, their benefits, they’re not being responded to.
KWAME HOLMAN: Democrat Steny Hoyer’s district is suburban Maryland, home to many furloughed federal workers.
REP. STENY HOYER, (D) Maryland: Not only does it impact directly on federal employees who are sent home–and our estimate is probably a hundred and twenty-five, a hundred and fifty thousand people in this area alone just sent home yesterday–but I went by this morning at 6:30 to get gas in my car down at Charlotte Hall Texaco, Moller’s Texaco, which is in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, about an hour from here, and Mrs. Moller was behind the cash register, and she said, “Steny, you’ve got to get this government working again.” She said, “Our gas sales were down yesterday, our food sales were down yesterday, we didn’t sell as many newspapers. People are scared, and they’re not coming by.” So that the impact that we see is not just on federal employees.
KWAME HOLMAN: But California Republican Dana Rohrbacher says phone calls to his office have been mostly positive.
REP. DANA ROHRBACHER, (R) California: Well, a lot of people out in Orange County would like to see the government shut down for good, and we haven’t been getting any pressure to, to compromise. My people say, you know, stand firm and keep it shut down, you know, if it means that in the long run, we’re going to have a better government.
KWAME HOLMAN: And that’s what Staten Island Republican Susan Molinari says she’s now hearing.
REP. SUSAN MOLINARI, (R) New York: Well, I think it’s changed over the last few days. Initially when there was discussion that there was going to be a government shutdown, it really was a pox on all your houses. Does anybody work in Washington, can you agree upon anything, and it was a total disgust, and our phone calls and our letters reflected that. I have to be very honest with you, though. In the last I’d say twenty-four to thirty-six hours, the phone calls and the letters have more and more been in support of the Republican position since I think we’ve done a better job of clarifying our message as to why we’re at this stand-off.
KWAME HOLMAN: And as for freshman Republican Sonny Bono, he says he was expecting a big budget battle like this.
REP. SONNY BONO, (R) California: I totally disagree with that notion that this doesn’t have to come to a fight. It may not have had to come to a fight now, but at some point to really affect change anytime you see real change, you will see a confrontation before that change. There is something you have to face, and so for them to think it would be a segway, that won’t happen here.
KWAME HOLMAN: There will be action this evening to get the government restarted. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle hopes to get a vote tonight on a temporary spending bill free of any condition. And Speaker Gingrich will introduce a temporary spending bill of his own, one that will require the President to agree to a balanced budget within seven years. The President is not likely to go along.