WASHINGTON -- It’s become a common House Republican talking point that Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama could end the shutdown of the government if they simply chose to negotiate.
“What we are looking at here again is an administration and president that seems to be unwilling to sit down and talk to us,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) bemoaned at a press conference on Saturday morning.
While Cantor is right that Democrats aren't exactly in the talking mood, the suggestion that they aren’t willing to negotiate ignores that they’ve already given Republicans a major win. The continuing resolution that the White House and congressional Democrats have agreed to funds the government at sequestration levels. And even some members of Cantor's own caucus admit that they got the good end of that deal.
“It is a concession, I acknowledge that,” Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) told The Huffington Post on Saturday. “I was glad to see that lower number. It didn’t take defense spending into account. We still have a big discrepancy between the House and Senate version. But there has been some compromise and I acknowledge that.”
(Lamborn, for what it's worth, is no centrist. He signed on to a letter saying a government shutdown was preferable to the implementation of Obamacare.)
So what have Democrats received in return for that compromise? If you ask many of them, they’d say "not a whole lot." Progressives complained bitterly that funding the government at $988 billion would set a bad precedent for future negotiations. Administration officials acknowledge that it would hurt the president’s priorities. But they and the party's congressional leadership made the case that a continuing resolution at that level would be tolerable provided it lasted for a short period of time and allowed for more substantial budget negotiations.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has insisted that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) agreed with this basic deal, to which Boehner’s top spokesman, Michael Steel, replied: “We don’t discuss private conversations between the Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader.”
Clearly, a good number of House Republicans don’t believe that sequestration-level funding is sufficient. They want more concessions in exchange for opening the government. But to make that push while simultaneously arguing that Democrats are the ones not willing to negotiate is an act of political jiujitsu.
On Saturday morning, The Huffington Post pushed Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) to explain the party's top talking point. A transcript of the exchange is below:
HuffPost: Democrats would argue that they have given you something. They’ve agreed to sequester-level funding. What do you say to that?
Farenthold: The sequester was agreed to in the last Congress. We got to keep moving the ball forward and don’t stop.
HuffPost: They would like it to be higher though and they are willing to keep it at this level, is that a concession?
HuffPost: I don’t see it as a concession. Just like Obamacare is the current law of the land, the Budget Control Act is the current law of the land.
Other Reporter: But you are asking for changes to Obamacare.
Farenthold: All right, so they can ask for changes to sequester and maybe that is where we come together. But they won’t sit down and talk to us.
HuffPost: But they are asking for changes to sequester. They would like a higher funding level.
Farenthold: All right, so where are the conferees from the Senate to talk about that?
HuffPost: To talk about what?
Farenthold: So, all right. We up some of the numbers there; they give on Obamacare. I don’t know if that would fly, but nobody is talking about it.
HuffPost: Would that be okay for you if you upped some spending in exchange for a delay or a change in Obamacare?
Farenthold: I would have to see what the offer is. Generally, no. I think that part of our problem is that we are spending so much more than we are taking in.
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.).