Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Tim Kaine and DNC Vice Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) went after Republicans today for their threat to shut down the government in the next session of Congress, telling reporters in a conference call that the GOP is "playing politics with the lives of the American people." They also commented on the fractions and infighting in the Republican Party, with Kaine comparing the GOP to cannibals.
"What we're seeing in the Republican Party is that they invited the Tea Party in and it's turning into the Donner Party, in some instances, because they're turning the energy and the ferocity against each other," said Kaine in response to a question by the Huffington Post, referring to the infamous group of 19th-century American pioneers who eventually had to turn to cannibalism to survive. He added that the divisions have given Democrats "some great opportunities in races that we wouldn't have absent the Tea Party candidates."
Wasserman Schultz warned that talk of a government shutdown is not just politics as usual and should be taken seriously, recounting what happened in 1995 and saying that the effect would be worse today with so many Americans out of work and needing assistance:
You had the recruitment and testing of federal law enforcement officials that was canceled, including the hiring of 400 border patrol agents. You had delinquent child support cases that were suspended, we had 368 national park sites close at a loss of 10 million visitors and an estimated $14.2 million in lost tourism revenue for communities near those parks. Two hundred thousand passport applications went unprocessed, and the tourism and airline industries lost million dollars, and there were many veterans and Native Americans who were unable to receive their benefits.
And those were just some of the effects of the 1995 shutdown. We know that because of the fragility of our government today, shutting down the government would have much more significant consequences. You have thousand of Americans who could see delays in their Social Security checks, their unemployment benefits, their Medicare benefits, and then you layer on top of that -- that shutdown fiasco -- the blueprint that Minority Leader Cantor and Paul Ryan laid out in their Young Guns book that's coming out today, and called for deep budget cuts and Social Security privatization. So it's very clear that if they can't shut down the government, they'll do everything they can to just shut down essential government services that are the lifeblood of what people need right now.
So far, Westmoreland, Newt Gingrich, CNN contributor Erick Erickson, Minnesota congressional candidate Teresa Collett, Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller, and GOP pollster Dick Morris have all endorsed the idea of a government shutdown. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, however, has warned that it is premature for Republicans to be talking of shutting down the government.
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