Shutdown imminent; GOP unity frays but still holds

a a a a
Share this story
Show Related Headlines
Related Articles
Countdown: GOP unity frays, shutdown grows near
Senate rejects House conditions on spending bill
How a government shutdown would impact you
We're closed? How gov't shutdowns came to be
Health law challenge threatens gov't shutdown

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The federal government lurched toward a partial shutdown at midnight on Monday after Republicans stubbornly demanded changes in the nation's health care law as the price for essential federal funding and President Barack Obama and Democrats adamantly refused.

With Congress hopelessly gridlocked, Obama said hundreds of thousands of federal workers would be furloughed and government operations ranging from veterans' centers to national parks and most of the nation's space agency would be shuttered.

He laid the blame at the feet of House Republicans, whom he accused of seeking to tie government funding to ideological demands, "all to save face after making some impossible promises to the extreme right wing of their party."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, responded a short while later on the House floor. "The American people don't want a shutdown and neither do I," he said. Yet, he added, the new health care law "is having a devastating impact. ... Something has to be done."

The stock market dropped on fears that political gridlock between the White House and a tea party-heavy Republican Party would prevail, though analysts suggested significant damage to the national economy was unlikely unless a shutdown lasted more than a few days.

While an estimated 800,000 federal workers faced furloughs, some critical parts of the government -- from the military to air traffic controllers -- would remain open.

Any interruption in federal funding would send divided government into territory unexplored in nearly two decades. Then, Republicans suffered grievous political damage and President Bill Clinton benefitted from twin shutdowns.

Now, some Republicans said they feared a similar outcome. "We can't win," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

"We're on the brink," Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Md., said shortly after midday as the two houses maneuvered for political advantage and the Obama administration's budget office prepared for a partial shutdown.

On a long day and night in the Capitol, the Senate torpedoed one GOP attempt to tie government financing to changes in "Obamacare." House Republicans countered with a second despite unmistakable signs their unity was fraying -- and Senate Democrats promptly rejected it, as well.

That left the next move up to Boehner and his House Republican rank and file, with just two hours remaining before the shutdown deadline of midnight EDT.

They decided to re-pass their earlier measure and simultaneously request negotiations with the Senate on a compromise, a move that some GOP aides said was largely designed to make sure that the formal paperwork was on the Senate's doorstep at the moment of a shutdown.

Whatever its intent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., rejected it. "That closes government. They want to close government," he said.

As lawmakers squabbled, Obama spoke bluntly about House Republicans. "You don't get to extract a ransom for doing your job, for doing what you're supposed to be doing anyway, or just because there's a law there that you don't like," he said. Speaking of the health care law that undergoes a major expansion on Tuesday, he said emphatically, "That funding is already in place. You can't shut it down."

Some Republicans balked, moderates and conservatives alike.

Rep. Phil Gingrey of Georgia said it felt as if Republicans were retreating, given their diminishing demands, and Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia said there was not unanimity when the rank and file met to discuss a next move.

Yet for the first time since the showdown began more than a week ago, there was also public dissent from the Republican strategy that has been carried out at the insistence of lawmakers working in tandem with GOP Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas.

Rep. Charles Dent, R-Pa., said he was willing to vote for stand-alone legislation that would keep the government running and contained no health care-related provisions. "I would be supportive of it, and I believe the votes are there in the House to pass it at that point," the fifth-term congressman said.

Other Republicans sought to blame Democrats for any shutdown, but Dent conceded that Republicans would bear the blame, whether or not they deserved it.

Hours before the possible shutdown, the Senate voted 54-46 to reject the House-passed measure that would have kept the government open but would have delayed implementation of the health care law for a year and permanently repealed a medical device tax that helps finance it.

In response, House Republicans sought different concessions in exchange for allowing the government to remain open. They called for a one-year delay in a requirement in the health care law for individuals to purchase coverage. The same measure also would require members of Congress and their aides as well as the president, vice president and the administration's political appointees to bear the full cost of their own coverage by barring the government from making the customary employer contribution.

"This is a matter of funding the

government and providing fairness to the American people," said Boehner. "Why wouldn't members of Congress vote for it?"

The vote was 228-201, with a dozen Republicans opposed and nine Democrats in favor.

Unimpressed, Senate Democrats swatted it on a 54-46 party line vote about an hour later.

Obama followed up his public remarks with phone calls to Boehner and the three other top leaders of Congress, telling Republicans he would continue to oppose attempts to delay or cut federal financing of the health care law.

The impact of a shutdown would be felt unevenly.

Many low-to-moderate-income borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-backed mortgages could face delays, and Obama said veterans' centers would be closed.

About 800,000 federal workers, many already reeling from the effect of automatic budget cuts, would be ordered to report to work Tuesday for about four hours -- but only to carry out shutdown-related chores such as changing office voicemail messages and completing time cards.

Some critical services such as patrolling the borders and inspecting meat would continue. Social Security benefits would be sent, and the Medicare and Medicaid health care programs for the elderly and poor would continue to pay doctors and hospitals.

U.S. troops were shielded from any damage to their wallets when Obama signed legislation assuring the military would be paid in the in the event of a shutdown.

That had no impact on those who labor at other agencies.

"I know some other employees, if you don't have money saved, it's going to be difficult," said Thelma Manley, who has spent seven years as a staff assistant with the Internal Revenue Service during a 30-year career in government.

As for herself, she said, "I'm a Christian, I trust in God wholeheartedly and my needs will be met." She added, "I do have savings, so I can go to the reserve, so to speak."

------

Associated Press writers Alan Fram, Andrew Taylor, Laurie Kellman, Pauline Jelinek; Henry Jackson, Donna Cassata and Stacy A. Anderson in Washington and Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pa., contributed to this report.

Previous
1 2
Next

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Print this article

Comments

Hmm... It looks like you’re not a WCPO Insider. or Subscribe now to contribute!

More National Politics
GOP has built-in advantage in fight for US House
GOP has built-in advantage in fight for US House

Even if Democrats recruit great candidates, raise gobs of money and run smart campaigns, they face an uphill fight to retake control of the…

Ohio helps show how GOP tilted House balance
Ohio helps show how GOP tilted House balance

To help analyze voting patterns, The Associated Press divided the votes from the 2012 presidential election into all 435 congressional…

Health law concerns for cancer centers
Health law concerns for cancer centers

Cancer patients relieved that they can get insurance coverage because of the new health care law may be disappointed to learn that some the…

US cites security more to censor, deny records
US cites security more to censor, deny records

The Obama administration has a way to go to fulfill its promises from Day 1 to become the most transparent administration in history.

John Boehner questions Senate unemployment deal
John Boehner questions Senate unemployment deal

House Speaker John Boehner said Friday he thinks a bipartisan Senate deal to renew expired benefits for the long-term unemployed isn't…

Crowley: No trust equals no compromise in DC
Crowley: No trust equals no compromise in DC

The host of CNN's "State of the Union," brought her insights on Washington politics to the Tri-State Thursday for…

Senator: CIA improperly searched networks
Senator: CIA improperly searched networks

The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Tuesday the CIA improperly searched a stand-alone computer network established for…

Military sex assault bill heads for Senate vote
Military sex assault bill heads for Senate vote

Legislation to curb sexual assaults in the military by stripping senior commanders of their authority to prosecute rapes and other serious…

Obama 2015 budget focuses on boosting economy
Obama 2015 budget focuses on boosting economy

President Barack Obama is unwrapping a nearly $4 trillion budget that gives Democrats an election-year playbook for fortifying the economy…

DJ: Better late than never for Obama initiative
DJ: Better late than never for Obama initiative

Will President Barack Obama be remembered for enacting an initiative aimed at getting young minority men on the margin to take control of…