Optimism Fades Ahead Of Government Shutdown Deadline

By  | 

(CBS/AP)-- With less than two days before much of the federal government shuts down due to disputes over the budget and Obamacare, Democrats and Republicans continued trading blows on Sunday, offering precious little cause for optimism that Congress will be able to steer its way out of the cul-de-sac before pandemonium arrives on Tuesday.

The message from both parties: The other side's demands are unreasonable, and they will consequently shoulder the blame if the government shuts down.

On Saturday, the House passed a spending bill that would keep the government funded through December 15 but delay or undo several key provisions of Obamacare, sending its latest proposal back to the Senate.

The Senate, which had rejected a previous attempt by the House to jettison the health care law, is likely to strip the latest anti-Obamacare language from the spending bill and send it back to the House, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."

"Tomorrow, the Senate will come in session," he said. "The House position, which is basically the same one they sent us the last time, is going to be rejected again. And we're going to face the prospect of the government shutting down come midnight Monday night/Tuesday morning, and that's sad."

At that point, House leaders will face another choice: Do they assent to the Senate's "clean" spending bill, devoid of provisions gutting Obamacare, or do they volley yet another proposal back to the Senate just hours before the government shuts down?

The number three House Republican, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., appeared to embrace the latter option in an interview on "Fox News Sunday," promising a fresh round of fiscal ping-pong before any agreement can be reached.

"I think the House will get back together, and in enough time, send another provision not to shut the government down, but to fund it, and it will have a few other options in there for the Senate to look at it again," he said.

"We are not shutting the government," he insisted, but he added that any bill that clears the House will contain "fundamental changes" to Obamacare, which Democrats have long written off as a non-starter.

Undeterred, elected GOP officials sounded off in support of the House's latest proposal on Sunday.

"I support what the House has done," said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who has helped lead the charge to undo the healthcare law in the Senate, on "Fox News Sunday." He defended Republicans' decision to link the debate over Obamacare with the budget negotiations.

"We want a delay for everyone. And the best way to do that is by defunding it," Lee said. "The only way to do that is in connection with the continuing resolution."

Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Wash., another member of the House GOP leadership team, defended Republicans' latest proposal and blamed the Senate for any potential shutdown.

"Republicans do not want to shut down the government," she said. "We are pushing the Senate to have the debate...We were there almost until midnight last night working on the bill, passing the bill, got even some Democrat support in the House, and yet, the Senate won't even come back today. They're the ones playing games. They need to act. They're the ones that are truly threatening a government shutdown by not being here and acting."

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a chief proponent of defunding the healthcare law, similarly blamed the Senate for Congress' failure to secure a deal. "So far, [Senate] Majority Leader Harry Reid has essentially told the House of Representatives and the American people, 'Go jump in a lake.' He said, "I'm not willing to compromise, I'm not willing to even talk." His position is 100% of Obamacare must be funded in all instances, and, other than that, he's going to shut the government down."

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that intransigence on the part of the president is a driving factor in the deadlock.

"I have said all along it is not a good idea to shut down government," he said, adding he thinks "it is not a good idea to give the president 100 percent of what he wants on Obamacare without compromise."

"We have been offering him compromises," Paul said. "Many on his side say there are problems, the Teamsters say there is a problem, Warren Buffett says there are problems, even former President Bill Clinton says there are problems with Obamacare. Why won't the president negotiate and come to a compromise on trying to make ObamaCare less bad?"

Obama driving possible government shutdown, GOP lawmakers say
Risking government shutdown, House GOP seeks Obamacare delay
Democrats, in turn, fired right back at Republicans, saying they're willing to entertain changes to improve the healthcare law, but not with the threat of economic calamity hanging over their heads.

On the House's latest proposal, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., said, on "Fox News Sunday": "We're not going to pass it because it is wrong to do a shut down of government as the leverage to make change."

"There's only one side that is linking Obamacare with the shutdown of government," he explained. "On our side, we say, let's have the debate...but let's not wrap it up in government shutdown."

"If there is to be a constructive conversation about the future of healthcare reform, it's going forward, I fully support that," he said, "But let's sit down in a bipartisan and calm way, not with the prospect of shutting down the government or shutting down the economy."

Former President Bill Clinton, who was judged by many to have emerged victorious from his own shutdown fights with the GOP during the 1990s, counseled Democrats to stand their ground during an interview on ABC's "This Week."

"There's nothing to negotiate with," he said. "[The president] shouldn't delay the health care bill. It's the law. And we're opening the enrollment on October 1. So, I think that's a nonstarter."

"This is the House Republicans and the Tea Party people saying, 'We don't want to negotiate with the Democrats. We want the dictate over the Senate, over the House Democrats, over the speaker of the House of our own party and over the president, we insist on dictating the course of the country'," Clinton said.

Despite the show of unity from elected Republicans, some GOP officials who no longer hold public office betrayed some anxiety about the endgame, suggesting congressional Republicans could be playing with fire.

Former Rep. Artur Davis, a former Democrat who switched his party allegiance due to disagreements over healthcare entitlements, said on CNN: "As a Republican, I do worry about the way this debate is playing out."

"I think Republicans win the substance on Obamacare and have been winning the substance for three years," Davis said. "I'm not convinced Republicans win an argument over brinksmanship."

"Republicans know this is a loser for them," added former Gov. John Huntsman, R-Utah, on NBC's "Meet the Press." "So Republicans are going to have to learn the lessons of this whole episode. And that will be you can't have an all-or-nothing approach."