The shutdown of the federal government that started early last week is continuing on, with neither Democrats nor Republicans showing any sign of ending their stalemate. On Saturday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other Democrat Representatives held a press conference, in which they urged House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to put a clean continuing resolution on the floor of the House for an up and down vote. Pelosi said that members of her party have gone on record supporting a CR that includes a budget of $988 billion, which reflects a prior Republican budget proposal. She also said that a growing number of House Republicans have indicated they would support a clean CR (one that would only fund the government, without placing conditions on the funding), which along with Democratic votes, would pass and allow the CR to be voted on in the Senate. (The Senate has already passed several clean CRs, which have been defeated in the House.) Rep. Van Hollen (D-MD) also spoke and chastised House Republicans for bringing piecemeal legislation to the floor to vote on that would fund certain agencies or projects but not others.
House Republicans, led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), also held a press conference on Saturday. Cantor noted that the House has taken steps to ease the pain of the shutdown, specifically by passing a bill that would ensure that furloughed employees will get back pay. That bill passed unanimously in the House and was sent to the Senate. Cantor called on President Obama and Democrats to sit down and discuss ways to work through their differences. Other Republican speakers echoed this point, saying that Republicans did not want the shutdown, and that Democrats are refusing to negotiate an end to it, while the House has worked to fund critical parts of the government. When asked why Cantor is “ignoring the Republicans in [his] caucus who would support bringing a clean CR to the floor”, he responded that “the Republican position has continued to be no special treatment under the law, no special treatment under Obamacare,” referring to a provision in the law that compels Congressmembers and their staff to buy insurance on the exchanges, and a revision that has been proposed that would allow the federal government to contribute to the cost of those employees’ plans, which no other large employer may do, as they are not permitted on the exchanges. Cantor called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to bring the various House-passed funding bills to the floor for a vote in order to “ease the pain on the American people while we continue to wait for the president to join us in these discussions”.
Last week an idea was floated to end the shutdown by using a procedural measure to allow a vote on a bill that has been sitting in the Appropriations Committee since March. House Democrats said they could file a discharge petition on a bill sponsored by Rep. James Lankford (R-OK). The bill would provide funding for another one-hundred twenty days at one-hundred percent, and then execute a one percent cut for every ninety days the government does not produce a funding bill. However, in filing the discharge petition, the Democrats would strip out that language and substitute it for a clean CR through November 15. Democrats mulling over this plan think they have enough Republicans supporting the clean CR that the plan would be successful. However, on Friday, a spokesman for Speaker Boehner brushed aside this plan in less than 140 characters by tweeting “Ah, the old discharge petition move. Zero percent of the time it works every time.”
With both sides appearing to dig in and refuse to budge on their positions, it looks increasingly likely the shutdown will continue for some time. The next major financial issue the country faces will happen on October 17, when the United States will meet the statutory debt limit (known as the “debt ceiling”) and be unable to borrow money needed to pay back obligations already incurred. If a deal is not reached to raise the limit, the United States risks defaulting on its obligations, which could trigger a major worldwide financial crisis.