Shutdown showdown: Hours before deadline, neither side is budging
By Lynn Sweet Washington Bureau Chief September 29, 2013 10:38PM
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, walks to the House Floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013. Lawmakers from both parties urged one another in a rare weekend session to give ground in their fight over preventing a federal shutdown, with the midnight Monday deadline fast approaching. But there was no sign of yielding Saturday in a down-to-the-wire struggle that tea party lawmakers are using to try derailing President Barack Obama's health care law. (AP Photo/Molly Riley)
Updated: November 1, 2013 10:17AM
WASHINGTON — With only a few hours left to haggle, neither Republicans or Democrats in Congress nor White House staffers are coming to work Monday with a plan to avoid a partial federal government shutdown by the midnight deadline.
“We’re going to face the prospect of the government shutting down come midnight Monday night, Tuesday morning,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told host Bob Schieffer on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
The Democratic-run Senate meets on Monday afternoon and is expected to dispense with a House measure — passed at 12:16 a.m. Eastern time Sunday with GOP votes — trying again to derail Obamacare in exchange for stopgap funding keeping all of the federal government open past the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.
The Obama administration promised to veto that legislation because it contains a provision to delay President Barack Obama’s signature health care law for a year.
The shutdown drama is heightened because Tuesday is the first day people can apply for health insurance coverage from private carriers through online “marketplaces” created as part of the Obamacare law. In Illinois, the marketplace opening for business on Tuesday is called “Get Covered Illinois.”
Indeed, the White House seems as focused on the roll-out in each state of these “marketplaces” — also called “exchanges” — as on the possibility of a partial shutdown.
In short order on Monday, the Senate will kick the budget can of worms back to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) demanding that any continuing resolution not be linked to defunding or delaying Obamacare.
Boehner as of Sunday night continued to risk a partial shutdown in order to mollify the Tea Party hardliners — between 30 to 50 — whose influence extends beyond their numbers.
At issue is short-term funding — only until Dec. 15. Congress is going to the brink now only to potentially return in a few weeks.
A few days ago, Boehner seemed inclined to want to move the Obamacare battle over to the looming fight over extending the debt ceiling, expected to come to the House floor mid-October. Instead, Boehner shifted gears and sent to the Senate a second stopgap budget resolution — with the change being the demand to defund Obamacare was switched to the bid to delay it a year.
A Republican strategist said a concern is once people start signing up for health insurance — especially those who are uninsured at present — it will be very difficult to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“If we fold now, the future is really bleak for us,” a Democrat close to the situation said.
Lawmakers on the Sunday shows were blaming each other for the impasse as Congress and the White House head into uncharted political territory.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is leading the charge against Obamacare — and mapping strategy with Tea Party GOP House members, causing trouble for Boehner — told David Gregrory on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Democrats will be blamed if there is a shutdown.
“So far Majority Leader Harry Reid has essentially told the House of Representatives and the American people, go jump in a lake. He said, I’m not willing to compromise; I’m not willing to even talk,” Cruz said.
Former President Bill Clinton told George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC’s “This Week,” “This is the House Republicans and the tea party people saying, we don’t want to negotiate with the Democrats. We want to dictate over the Senate, over the House Democrats, over the speaker of the House of our own party and over the president. We insist on dictating the course of the country.”
One possible compromise may be the repeal of a Obamacare tax on medical device makers.
The House over the weekend also voted 248-174 to drop that tax, with 17 Democrats joining with Republicans including Illinois freshmen: Reps. Tammy Duckworth, Brad Schneider, Cheri Bustos and Bill Enyart. Except for Duckworth, the others face tough re-election battles.
Durbin, asked about the device tax on CBS said, “ I’m willing to look at that, but not with a gun to my head, not with the prospect of shutting down the government.”