Government shutdown looms with little room for compromise

Government shutdown looms with little room for compromise

Government shutdown looms with little room for compromise


by Shushannah Walshe and Arlette Saenz

Posted on September 24, 2013 at 8:10 AM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 24 at 9:02 AM

If lawmakers in Washington aren't able to reach an agreement to avoid a government shutdown on October 1, who would you blame?

(ABC News) -- There are several Republican members of the House working to get themselves promoted to the Senate and they are speaking with one voice on the GOP's threat of a government shutdown if Obamacare is not defunded.

At least six House Republicans who are likely or definitely running for Senate are backing the GOP push. They all voted Friday for a House continuing resolution to fund the government through mid-December while defunding the Affordable Care Act.

But when it comes to the general election, could their willingness to threaten a government shutdown hurt them, even in red states?

Democrats hope so.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has launched a website to point out the possible effects of a government shutdown, and to blame Republicans for the "looming shutdown" that "would have a devastating impact on the country."

"Republican leaders have embraced the Tea Party's ultimatum that Obamacare must be destroyed at all costs," the website says.

They have also launched web ads and there is a clock ticking down the minutes until the government shuts down.

"Shutting down the government is a reckless and dangerous way to run the country and Republicans who support it include virtually every Senate candidate in the country," DSCC national press secretary Justin Barasky said.

Voters, he said, will hold them "accountable" in 2014 for "doing something that hurts the economy, hurts jobs, hurts small business, and hurts students trying to pay for college ... there are no positives to shutting down the government."

Barasky said the DSCC will continue to "highlight" the "bad judgment" these candidates are showing.

"That's what will hurt them the most with voters," Barasky said. "All these Republicans have decided they would rather pander to right wing extremists in their party than do what's best in their states."

All three GOP congressmen running for Senate in Georgia are on board: Reps. Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, and Jack Kingston. As well as Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.

Rep. Steve Daines is a likely Senate candidate from Montana, and although he has not yet officially announced, he voted on Friday as well.

Most of the Republican candidates running for the Senate outside Congress also have backed the effort, including another candidate vying for the Senate seat in Georgia: former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel.

Among the many others are several of the candidates running for Senate in Iowa.

In Alaska there is a difference, though. Alaska tea party candidate Joe Miller supports the push, but Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell thinks a government shutdown goes too far.

"Mead fully supports any attempt to defund and repeal Obamacare, but shutting down the government is not a good idea," Treadwell's communications director Rick Gorka told ABC News. "He believes Democrats need to come to the table and address Obamacare."

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found there is little reason to fear a backlash from GOP primary voters.

Half of Republicans overall, and 54 percent of strong conservatives, say they'd support shutting down the government in order to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act. On the law itself, 52 percent of Americans, including Democrats, Republicans, and independents, are opposed vs. 42 percent in support, the poll found.

 In the same ABC News poll, more independents oppose the Affordable Care Act than support it, 54 percent to 42 percent, but they're closely divided on the idea of trying to block it via a government shutdown, making it tough to read whether the DSCC strategy would work with them.

Even if the government does not end up shutting down, Barasky says the DSCC will still "absolutely be reminding voters (that GOP candidates) were willing to delay social security checks, delay Medicare Benefits, delay military benefits."

"This is very dangerous and people understand that relatively easily," Barasky said.

To counter the DSCC's planned attack, the National Republican Senatorial Committee will answer that the bill these members of Congress voted for actually does fund the government, it just takes away funding for Obamacare, NRSC spokeswoman Brook Hougesen said.

"Just when it seems like Chuck Schumer and the political arm for Senate Democrats couldn't be any more out of touch with Americans, they promise to campaign on the fact that their opponents oppose ObamaCare and supported a bill to fund the government but dismantle ObamaCare in states where six in 10 women oppose ObamaCare," Hougesen said in a statement to ABC News.

"Shutting down the federal government tends to be an issue that a majority of Americans don't find favorable because it usually shows partisanship in Washington winning the day instead of compromise and willing to work things out, however Democrats' interest in using this as an election tactic is flawed," GOP strategist Brian Donahue said.

"A majority of people believe that issues purely inside the Beltway are pure inside baseball and don't affect everyday lives, they never have a long term impact on people," Donahue said. "The negative feelings towards government shutdown are very short lived. ... It might satisfy a few nights' coverage on the news, but it always gets solved and it's not on people's radars months later."

Mary Ann Marsh, a Democratic strategist says it will only work politically if "people are reminded of it every single day and if it is personal."

"Everyone on the political spectrum agrees things aren't working anymore," Marsh said. "You can point fingers, but you also have to be part of the solution and it is hard for Republicans to be part of the solution when they are shutting down the government every step of the way."

Marsh said a government shutdown might not change the balance of power in the Senate or have any effect on GOP primaries, but the House could flip to the Democrats.

"In terms of the general election, in the 17 (House) seats (a government shutdown) could be the difference in the Democrats getting the seats back or the Republicans keeping the House," Marsh said. "Republicans are doing everything they can to help Democrats and help the president. The only ones they are hurting are themselves and they are more willing to hurt everyday folks to burnish their own conservative credentials."

There is only one week to go. If both sides of the aisle don't start agreeing on something, namely how to pay the country's bills, the government will shut down on Oct. 1.

Days till government shutdown: 6

Where things stand:  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid  introduced the continuing resolution in the Senate on Monday afternoon. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, asked Reid to consider two procedural maneuvers: The first was to unanimously agree to pass the House-approved resolution, which removes funding for Obamacare, and the second was  to require a 60-vote threshold for any amendments.  Reid objected to both requests and later in the day filed cloture on the motion to proceed, setting up the first filibuster vote for Wednesday.

Who’s saying what: After Reid shot down his requests, Cruz tried to turn the tables on Reid, arguing that the majority leader’s objections were what’s pushing the government closer to a shutdown. “Five minutes ago, the Senate could have acted to prevent a government shutdown,” Cruz said Monday. “But unfortunately, the majority leader chose to object and to say no.  He would rather risk a government shutdown than act to prevent it.”

And Cruz warned his Republican colleagues that a vote in favor of cloture “will be voting to allow the majority leader to fund Obamacare on 51 votes.”

But shortly after Cruz tried to rally his Republican colleagues to vote against cloture, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that McConnell would not support Cruz’s filibuster push.  Instead, the Kentucky Republican, along with the Senate’s No. 2 Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said they would not block a bill that would defund Obamacare. Translation: They will vote in favor of cloture, since they support the House resolution, but they’ll ultimately vote against the final Senate amended resolution.

Where things are heading: Let’s just say it’s going to be a long week in the Senate. Cruz has vowed to use every procedural measure available to him, including a filibuster, to try to keep the Senate from stripping the defund Obamacare language from the CR, so it is expected that this vote will go down to the wire.  Here’s a look at how things might shake out over the next few days.

Tuesday, Sept. 24

The Senate will hold votes on some judicial nominees in the morning before heading to the weekly caucus lunches. Later in the afternoon, it will keep an eye on the Senate floor for Cruz, who is expected to speak and could lay out his plans moving forward.

Wednesday, Sept. 25

The Senate will have its first test vote when it votes to end debate on the motion to proceed, which will require 60 votes to pass. Reid has indicated this vote would occur no later than noon. If the vote passes, a 30-hour clock would start before the Senate can vote on a motion to proceed.

Thursday, Sept. 26

At the end of the 30 hours, the Senate will vote on the motion to proceed.  At this time, Reid can file the amendment that would strip the Obamacare defunding language from the bill.  Reid would then file cloture on the resolution, setting up a vote to end debate for Saturday.

Friday, Sept. 27

This is a day of debate during which Cruz could launch a filibuster to try to keep the Senate from taking out the defund Obamacare language.

Saturday, Sept. 28

The Senate will vote to end debate on the resolution, which will require 60 votes.  The 30- hour clock would then start, allowing for the final votes to occur on Sunday.

Sunday, Sept. 29

The Senate will hold two votes on Sunday. The first would be to approve the amendment that would strip the defunding language from the CR, and the second would be on final passage of the bill, at which point it would be sent back to the House.