WASHINGTON -- Congressional Democrats emerged emboldened Monday night from the breakdown in efforts to avert a government shutdown, confident that President Barack Obama had the political upper hand and would stand firm in future negotiations.
Just outside the House floor, many of those members lingered leisurely, even as the chamber took several largely party-line votes to fund the government while delaying aspects of Obamacare.
This was pure theater, they argued. And regardless of how Republicans arranged the stage, the ending wouldn’t change.
“I don’t blame the president for one second," Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) told The Huffington Post. "I wouldn’t negotiate this stuff either.”
Minutes earlier, the House had approved a bill that would delay Obamacare’s individual mandate, in addition to ending the employer contribution for federal employee health care benefits. Cummings had strolled out from that vote and parked himself at a wooden table nearby. As he patiently scrolled through a copy of The New York Times, only a handful of reporters bothered him. Most turned their attention to House Republicans leaving the floor.
“Nobody talks about the fact that this is an effort to take away something that has already been granted,” Cummings proclaimed, expressing dismay that those members somehow thought the president would reel back the Affordable Care Act. “It is something that we actually voted for.”
The “we” was said with a touch of emphasis. Cummings knows full well that in negotiations past, Obama has been keen to cut a deal with congressional Republicans to avert a crisis. But this time was different, Cummings insisted, in large because the president’s own party would revolt against any 11th-hour acquiescence.
“I think the president knows that Democrats are tired," Cummings said. "They are tired of giving and not receiving and I think they want to make sure that our voters see consequences of an election. I think the president will wait. And the reason I think he will out-wait them is not necessarily because of him, but because of the Democrats in the House and the Senate.”
Just how long that wait will be is a major question, certainly for those directly affected by a shutdown. As the midnight deadline passed, Democrats showed no sign of moving off their line, confident that Republicans would eventually understand how poor a hand they held.
Would Democrats accept any small change to Obamacare if it meant getting out from under a shutdown, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was asked.
“No,” she replied.
Pelosi’s top deputy, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), said his party had already compromised.
“It was on the spending levels,” Clyburn said. “$1.058 trillion is what we wanted [in a spending bill]. They sent us back $988 billion. And the president agreed to that. And we over here were not in agreement with that. Democrats were not in agreement with that. And so that is what you compromise on. You don’t compromise on your landmark legislation, which has absolutely nothing to do with keeping the government open. You are keeping the government running with your appropriations.”
Clyburn suspected that a short-term continuing resolution -- something that lasted a matter of days -- would be agreed to by the parties, in order to buy some negotiating time. The turn of midnight proved him wrong.
Down the hall sat Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), who, despite his playful demeanor, was far more cynical about the prospects of an agreement.
“I don’t know how they succumb,” Cohen said of House Republicans. “At some point, you think they have to give in. But how can they give in? Because to give in is to say we were jackals, we were fools, we were wrong. And so we are giving in. The government is more important. They can’t do that. They really have got themselves in a box where if they surrender they have got so much stuff all over the place. There aren’t enough tissues to clean it up.”
Does that mean a shutdown in perpetuity? No, said Cohen. But it was “going to be a long time” before a resolution presents itself.
Cummings had a similar view. The whole ordeal, he warned, could “go on for a while, at least a week,” he said.
“First of all, I don’t think the president is going to give in, and I think it is going to take them that long to come around," Cummings said. "I think they’ve got to feel some pressure. And I think once they begin to feel the pressure and they truly begin to feel that it might affect them in the next election -– I don’t think they’ve gotten it yet, they are getting there, but they are not there yet -– but once they begin to feel that, then I think they will fold."
BEFORE YOU GO
17/10/2013 05:30 BST
Obama Signs Budget Bill
From the White House:
On Thursday, October 17, 2013, the President signed into law:
H.R. 2775, the "Continuing Appropriations Act, 2014," which provides fiscal year 2014 appropriations for projects and activities of the Federal Government through Wednesday, January 15, 2014. The effective time for the continuing resolution begins on October 1, 2013. H.R. 2775 also extends the Nation's debt limit through February 7, 2014.
Read more here.
17/10/2013 04:58 BST
White House Receives Budget Legislation
The White House has received the legislation to re-open the government, raise the debt limit.— Brendan Buck (@Brendan_Buck) October 17, 2013
17/10/2013 04:13 BST
Frank Lautenberg's Widow Reaps $174,000 In Senate Budget Bill
Hours before Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) won a New Jersey special senatorial election to succeed the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D), U.S. senators paid tribute to Lautenberg in their own way.
Rushed to approve a 35-page deal to fund the government and avert a debt default, senators allowed a few unrelated provisions to slip through.
One was section 146, guaranteeing $174,000 -- the equivalent of one year's salary -- to Lautenberg's widow, Bonnie Englebart Lautenberg.
-- Ashley Alman
17/10/2013 03:59 BST
Federal Employees Back To Work Thursday
Director of the Office of Management and Budget Sylvia Mathews Burwell released the following statement Wednesday evening:
"Now that the bill has passed the United States Senate and the House of Representatives, the President plans to sign it tonight and employees should expect to return to work in the morning. Employees should be checking the news and OPM's website for further updates."
17/10/2013 03:36 BST
Stenographer Removed For Shouting On House Floor
A shouting stenographer was removed from the House floor as lawmakers voted on a deal to reopen the government and avoid a debt crisis.
The stenographer began shouting as the the House approved the number of votes needed to pass the bill. According to reporters, she was yelling about God and Freemasons:
Protester dragged off House floor. Apparently one of the stenographers from the dais.— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) October 17, 2013
Stenographer seemed 2 b shouting + delusional on floor. "This is not a House divided." Escorted from floor during vote,— Alan Ota (@Alankota) October 17, 2013
An official house court stenographer took to the microphone & was screaming ab God. She was saying in the hall you can't serve two masters.— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) October 17, 2013
Stenographer removed shouting about God not being mocked and the free masons— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) October 17, 2013
-- Paige Lavender
17/10/2013 03:27 BST
House Vote: 285-144
The House voted 285-144 to reopen the federal government and raise the debt limit.
17/10/2013 03:18 BST
Republicans Score Amazing Own Goal
HuffPost's Arthur Delaney and Dave Jamieson report:
After voting this year to keep federal employees' pay frozen, Republicans in Congress have accidentally given many government workers their first raise in three years.
It's one of several unintended consequences of the Republican gambit to defund Obamacare by shutting down the government. It isn't a nominal raise, and it won't improve most workers' lives one bit. In fact, so far it's brought mostly misery and anxiety. But here's how it's a one-time raise.
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been off the job for two weeks due to the government shutdown. As part of the deal hatched Wednesday to reopen the government, Congress included a measure to pay those workers retroactively for the time they missed, as a matter of fairness, just as it has in the budget impasses of yesteryear. The rationale: federal workers shouldn't have to pay the price for Congress's failures.
But in a symbol of just how wasteful a government shutdown is, lawmakers -- many of whom complain that the federal workforce is bloated, and who haven't granted workers a single cost-of-living adjustment since 2010 -- have forced federal employees to perform two fewer weeks of work for the same salary, all due to congressional squabbling. That's a full pay period, amounting to 3.8 percent of annual wages.
17/10/2013 03:14 BST
House Passes Budget Deal
The House has voted to end the latest damaging battle of divided government in a polarized Congress.
17/10/2013 03:13 BST
House Has The Votes
There it is. House has required votes to end shutdown, avert default.— Sabrina Siddiqui (@SabrinaSiddiqui) 4 years ago
17/10/2013 03:05 BST
Mitch McConnell Wins The Praises Of... Democratic Leaders
HuffPost's Jennifer Bendery reports:
There was a lot of back-patting among Democratic leaders Wednesday after the Senate passed its bill to end the government shutdown and avert a debt default. But some of their most effusive praise was for the leader of the other party, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who cut a deal with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) at the eleventh hour to avoid catastrophe.
"The Republican leader's cooperation was essential to reach an accord," Reid told reporters, noting his sometimes rocky relationship with the GOP leader. "I've worked with McConnell for many years. The last bit has not been ... [long pause] good."
McConnell "stepped up to be [Reid's] partner when it really counted," said Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.).