Congressional leaders from both parties blame each other for a possible US government shutdown but are offering no compromise to keep the operations financed.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California called some of her GOP opponents "legislative arsonists." "They're there to burn down what we should be building up, in terms of investments and education and scientific research and all that it is that make our country great and competitive," she told CNN's "State of the Union." "I don't paint them all with the same brush -- and I certainly don't paint the speaker with that brush," she said of John Boehner, R-Ohio. "But enough of them in their caucus to shut down government -- that would be a victory for them." House Republicans pushed through a stopgap bill Friday that would fund the government after Sept. 30 but only if all spending for President Obama's healthcare law was eliminated. The government's new fiscal year starts Oct. 1. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is to go into full effect Jan. 1. Senate Democratic leaders prepared to answer the House move with a vote to eliminate the healthcare-defunding provision from the stopgap spending bill, then send their measure back to the House with little time for Republicans to change it. The vote could possibly be held the eve of the funding expiration deadline, The New York Times said. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told "Fox News Sunday" Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada would probably use "brute political power" to try to strip the healthcare-defunding provision from the spending bill. He would do this by invoking a Senate rule that says an amendment to a bill can be passed by a simple majority after debate has ended. When asked why following a rule was using "brute political power," Cruz said "on controversial votes," such as Obama's healthcare reform, "we work out an agreement for it to be subject to a 60-vote threshold" to give the minority party a better chance of stopping the measure from passing. The last time the US government shut down was in 1995 and 1996 in a conflict between Democratic President Bill Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress over funding for Medicare, education, the environment and public health. The result was the federal government put non-essential workers on furlough and suspended non-essential services from Nov. 14 to Nov. 19, 1995, and from Dec. 16, 1995, to Jan. 6, 1996 -- a total of 28 days. About 800,000 federal workers were sent home in the November period. Half the government closed in the December-January shutdown. Complicating matters in the current crisis, congressional Republicans have also threatened to refuse to raise the government's borrowing limit later next month. This means the nation could default on some of its debt, in a potential replay of the debt-ceiling crisis of the summer of 2011. Obama called the potential mid-October action "profoundly destructive." If it happens, "America becomes a deadbeat," he said Friday. Cruz said if the government shuts down, it would be the fault of Obama, Reid and Senate Democratic supporters of them who refuse to negotiate over the healthcare law. "We've been standing up, leading the fight to defund Obamacare," Cruz told Fox News after saying "Americans trust Republicans more than Democrats on healthcare." Because of this trust, he said, "I believe we should stand our ground." Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., disputed Cruz on several points. "It's not brute political force that is refusing to defund Obamacare. It's called the American people and elections," she said on the same Fox News program. "I don't think in America, we should throw tantrums when we lose elections and threaten to shut down the government and refuse to pay the bills. "The American people had a choice last November. They had a choice between someone who said repeal Obamacare and President Obama. And not since Ronald Reagan has a president been elected twice by more than 50 percent of the American people." Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, told NBC's "Meet the Press" he hoped conservative Democrats would join with Senate Republicans to pass the House version of the bill with the provision to defund the healthcare law. On the borrowing limit, Lee said: "We all know that the government's going to be funded. The question is whether it will be funded with Obamacare or without." Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., told the program Republicans were holding the nation hostage by refusing to raise the borrowing limit without major concessions, including a delaying the healthcare law a year. "We must pay our bills. We're not a deadbeat nation," she said. "This should not be held as a bargaining chip, it should not be held hostage." UPI