House Mulls Next Step Ahead of Senate Vote

BY Terence Burlij  September 27, 2013 at 8:50 AM EST


Photo of U.S. Capitol rotunda by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

The Senate appeared set to approve a temporary spending bill Friday afternoon aimed at averting a government shutdown next Tuesday, but what happens after that is anyone’s guess.
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Beginning at 12:30 p.m. EDT, the Senate will proceed to a series of votes on the measure, including an amendment to strike language approved by the Republican-controlled House to eliminate funding for President Barack Obama’s health care reform law.

Then the legislation moves back over to the House, where House Speaker John Boehner has put Senate Democrats on notice that Republicans in his chamber will revise the plan yet again.

“I have made it clear now for months and months and months we have no interest in seeing a government shutdown. But we have got to address the spending problems that we have in this town. And so there will be options available to us,” Boehner told reporters following a meeting of his Republican lawmakers on Thursday.

At that session GOP leaders presented a plan to their members that would push the battle over the health care law to the next fiscal fight, raising the country’s debt ceiling. The Washington Post’s Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane report that proved to be a tough sell:

But about two dozen hard-liners rejected that approach, saying they will not talk about the debt limit until the battle over government funding is resolved.

“Quite frankly, I think that’s primarily where we need to be putting our attention,” said Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., who has led the drive in the House to use the threat of a shutdown to defund the health-insurance initiative, Obama’s signature legislative achievement.

Late Thursday afternoon, Boehner convened an emergency meeting of his leadership team to try to hash out things. They emerged with no answers, and no clear path forward for any piece of legislation, either to keep the lights on in Washington or to make sure the Treasury Department can continue to pay the nation’s bills by raising the borrowing limit.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., made clear Thursday that his patience with House Republicans had worn thin.

“If anyone here thinks the Republicans in the House have a workable plan to avert a shutdown on Monday, tell me about it,” Reid said. “They’re throwing all this mud hoping some of it sticks on the wall. But it is mud and it won’t stick.”

But it was a pair of Senate Republicans that drew an even harsher rebuke from the Nevada Democrat. Late Thursday afternoon Reid attempted to move forward with the votes on the spending bill in order to give the House more time to amend the proposal before then sending back over to the Senate.

“Every minute that goes by is a minute closer to a government shutdown,” Reid declared.

The effort was blocked, however, by Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, who led the 21-hour talkathon against the health care law that ended Wednesday.

“The American people are paying attention to this. They are watching this,” Lee said.

Reid called the effort a “big charade” and said it was doomed to fail.

“What the American people see here in the Senate, this new Senate, is everything is a big, big stall,” Reid sad. “Never do your work now. Wait until tomorrow. Maybe I’ll give this great speech that will turn the world around. This is senseless.”

Tennessee Republican Bob Corker agreed, questioning why his fellow Republicans would object to getting the bill back over to the House, where GOP lawmakers could insert policies favorable to conservatives.

“It’s my understanding … that my two colleagues, who I respect, have sent out emails around the world and turned this into a show, possibly,” Corker said. “And therefore they want people around the world to watch, maybe them, and maybe others on the Senate floor, and that is taking priority over getting legislation back to the House so they can take action before the country’s government shuts down.”

Cruz did not respond directly that criticism from Corker. Instead, he questioned why Corker and other Republicans were choosing to support Democrats moving forward with their plans to do away with the Obamacare defunding language in the bill.

“Why is Majority Leader Harry Reid going to vote the same way you’re proposing to vote? Why is every Democrat in this chamber going to vote the way you’re proposing to vote,” Cruz asked. “When we told our constituents we oppose Obamacare, we meant it. So we are not going to be complicit in giving Harry Reid the ability to fund Obamacare.”

Other arguments on Thursday devolved into whether partisans were comparing the other side to hostage-takers and more on how the Senators might just be grandstanding — gasp! — for television cameras.

Reid’s office collected some tweets from Cruz’s staff to prove they want a wider audience.

“All this would be funny if it wasn’t so crazy,” Mr. Obama told a supportive crowd at a campaign-style rally in Maryland on Thursday. He ridiculed GOP lawmakers and accused some in the party of trying to “blackmail a president.”

White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer became a villain for Republicans Thursday when telling CNN’s Jake Tapper that the president is not in favor of “negotiating with people with a bomb strapped to their chest.”

Politico’s Jonathan Allen writes that, “Pfeiffer also offered up analogies comparing Republicans to kidnappers and arsonists” by referring to a beefed up debt-limit measure as “ransom demands.” Pfeiffer also said, “[I]t’s not a negotiation if I show up at your house and say give me everything inside or I’m going to burn it down.”

The New York Times probably isn’t helping in the fight by using the term “ransom note” on its editorial page.

On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew sent the House a very serious warning that, for the first time, the United States would be unable to pay its bills beginning on Oct. 17 if the debt ceiling is not lifted. House leaders responded on Thursday with one of the least serious negotiating proposals in modern Congressional history: a jaw-dropping list of ransom demands containing more than a dozen discredited Republican policy fantasies.

We’ll refrain from deliberately sabotaging the global economy, Speaker John Boehner and the other leaders said, if President Obama allows more oil drilling on federal lands. And drops regulations on greenhouse gases. And builds the Keystone XL oil pipeline. And stops paying for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And makes it harder to sue for medical malpractice. And, of course, halts health care reform for a year.

The list would be laughable if the threat were not so serious. A failure to raise the debt ceiling would cause a default on government debt, shattering the world’s faith in Treasury bonds as an investment vehicle and almost certainly bringing on another economic downturn.

Meanwhile, the health care law at the center of this policy argument goes into (almost) full effect Tuesday.

White House press secretary Jay Carney was peppered with questions about some of the early hiccups for insurance exchanges, large and small.

Among the glitches: websites for the exchanges that will serve small businesses won’t go live for another month, and a Spanish-language signup site is delayed a few weeks.

(NewsHour’s Elizabeth Shell made this nifty infographic detailing how the state plans compare.)

We reported on all the developments on the NewsHour Thursday. Watch what happened in Congress here or below:


And Gwen Ifill spoke with two Capitol Hill veterans who have seen deals forged behind the scenes. Former Reid aide Jim Manley and one-time top aide to former Speaker Dennis Hastert and the Senate Republican Conference Ron Bonjean sparred as they outlined the options ahead for lawmakers facing a shutdown. Both said they think a last minute compromise will spring up, even though they illustrated the deep divisions between the parties.

Watch the discussion here or below.


Friend of the NewsHour Stuart Rothenberg sniffed at the last-minute nature of the dealmaking in his latest column:

Pardon my blasé attitude about it all, but I’ve seen this movie before, and unless they changed the ending — and it certainly is possible they did — I’m not getting too excited yet.

Here is what I wrote in this space on Dec. 3, 2012, during the media’s panic coverage of the approaching fiscal cliff:

“What we are witnessing now is very similar to what we saw during the summer of 2011, when Democrats and Republicans waited until the last minute — indeed only hours before an August ‘deadline’ — to raise the debt ceiling.

As I noted in a column two and a half months before that debt ceiling deadline, both parties had a strong incentive to wait until the very last minute before agreeing on a compromise. The situation is no different now, even after the 2012 elections.

Arriving at a compromise ‘too early’ gives ideologues within each party an opportunity to complain that their side ‘caved’ prematurely and could have gotten more if their political leaders had simply acted tougher, demanded more and waited.”

Let me be very clear: a government shutdown is possible. And that would be bad for a lot of people. But I, for one, am tired of the over-hype, the constant chatter of how crazy everyone is and people pulling out their hair (I don’t have enough to pull out anyway).

As the clock continues ticking toward the end of the day Monday, the NewsHour (and NewsHour Weekend!) will keep you posted on the latest. Tune in.

LINE ITEMS

  • The Washington Post’s Josh Hicks and Marjorie Censer note that a government shutdown actually isn’t free.

  • Fresh off his “filibuster,” Cruz will appear Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

  • West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, would support delaying Obamacare, he said at a breakfast in Washington Thursday.

  • Charlie Savage has the latest in Congress’ probe of the government’s surveillance programs.

  • Democratic Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, who made a national name for herself by filibustering a measure that restricted access to abortion, will run for governor.

  • But Democratic Rep. Michael Capuano will not run for governor in Massachusetts.

  • The Associated Press has the latest on gay marriage fight in Pennsylvania as a couple who moved to the state after being wed in Massachusetts “has asked a court to force their new home state to recognize the marriage.”

  • Politico’s Maggie Haberman trailed Chelsea Clinton this week at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York while examining her mom’s future presidential prospects.

  • Roll Call’s Abby Livingston reports on a tea party candidate eyeing Sen. Thad Cochran’s seat as the Mississippi Republican ponders retirement.

  • Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., wrote a Buzzfeed listicle on climate change.

  • In a strange twist, Louisiana’s Republican Sen. David Vitter filed another ethics complaint against California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer over an amendment that never materialized.

  • That’s one way to keep your spouse in line.

  • The Washington Post previews the opening of a new library showcasing important papers from the first-ever presidential administration.

  • Lawmakers assert that the health care law is hurting Sesame Place.

  • Thanks, @adorablecareact!

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

  • Jenny Marder has your cheat sheet to the big climate report out Friday. The New York Times has more here.

  • In the 1990 campaign cycle, when there were 31 women in Congress, 21 of the top 100 political contributors were women. How many women were among the top 100 in 2012? Here’s the lowdown on sex, money and politics.

  • “Working” for free? Paul Solman catches up with unpaid interns who say their experience went beyond learning — it was a job. That was the realization of “Intern Nation” author Ross Perlin, who recounts his epiphany on the Business Desk.

  • Judy Woodruff talked about Iran and Syria to Flynt Leverett of Penn State University, Suzanne Maloney of Brookings Institution and former CIA case officer Reuel Marc Gerecht.

  • Lightsabers!

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.

TOP TWEETS

Katelyn Polantz and Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

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