WASHINGTON -- A top House Democrat on Monday indicated that if the federal government shuts down Tuesday, it could be some time before disagreements between Republicans and Democrats are resolved and the government opens back up.
"The scary thing about the period we're in right now is there is no clear end point to a shutdown," said House Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.
"Once you go down this road, it's not clear how it comes to an end," Van Hollen told reporters. He added, "So let's not head down this road."
But the congressman appeared resigned to the fact that a shutdown appears all but imminent.
The last government shutdown, in 1995-1996, closed the federal government for a total of 28 days when Republicans in Congress could not agree with President Bill Clinton over spending levels.
Van Hollen called on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to "step up and show some leadership" by allowing the House to vote on a "clean" bill funding the government, without any Republican amendments. Such a move would anger the tea party caucus of the House GOP, but Van Hollen said he could "confidently predict" that enough Democrats would support the measure to pass it.
Van Hollen was skeptical that Boehner would lose his speakership over such a move. "I'm not sure who the alternative in the House to Speaker Boehner should be," he said, a subtle dig at House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).
He also called out House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for keeping a low profile during the current confrontation. Ryan became a national figure as the GOP's vice presidential candidate in 2012 and put his reputation on the line during the immigration fight, but he has been quiet as Republicans like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have argued that Democrats must defund or delay Obamacare in exchange for continued government funding.
A reporter asked Van Hollen where Ryan has been, to which he responded, "I don't know. You're going to have to send out the posse to, ah, look. I don't know."
Van Hollen then took a swipe at Ryan's yearlong plan to leverage the coming fight over raising the debt ceiling -- which the government is now set to hit in mid-October -- to achieve spending cuts.
"He's been a part of the group that behind the scenes was trying to put together a proposal to deal with the debt ceiling. I believe they called themselves the Jedi Council. We see it more as the Darth Vader group," Van Hollen said.