A partial government shutdown has entered its third day Thursday with no end to the deadlock in sight. Or is there?
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is proposing to House Republican and Democratic leaders a compromise to end the government shutdown by repealing a medical device tax and maintaining across-the-board spending cuts.
Representatives Charlie Dent, a Pennsylvania Republican, and Ron Kind, a Wisconsin Democrat, are leading a group of 20 lawmakers who sent House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi a letter today offering the compromise.
“It is time that we break this impasse,” the lawmakers said in the letter.
While the medical device proposal has drawn support from Democrats in both chambers, Charles Schumer, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat, as well as Majority Leader Reid, have said their party won’t accept a bill to fund the government that contains a single measure related to PresidentBarack Obama’s health-care law. “If we were to give in while the government is shut down to a demand, what do you think happens on the debt ceiling?” Schumer said. “If they open the government first, we talk about it.”
The mainstream media has been depicting the Tea Party Republicans as uncompromising, but repealing the 2.3 percent tax on medical equipment mandated under Obamacare actually won the support of 34 Senate Democrats and every Republican in March as part of a budget blueprint. So who is uncompromising?
The bipartisan offer comes as more than a dozen House Republicans who want to drop attempts to undermine the health-care law and reopen the government are meeting among themselves and with Boehner.
U.S. congressional leaders did meet for about an hour late Wednesday with President Obama, who called them for the distinct purpose of appearing to be engaged and reasonable. But they emerged from the closed-door session at the White House with no progress on the budget impasse being made, which triggered the shutdown.
House Speaker John Boehner said Obama told him he will not negotiate a deal to reopen the government. Boehner said he told the president he wants a discussion of what he referred to as the “fairness” of Obama’s signature health care program – Obamacare – or the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans have wanted to tie funding the government to a delay in the individual mandate for all Americans, just as the White House unilaterally did for big business. A new Fox poll today showed that Americans have widespread support for that proposal, and have blamed both Boehner and Obama equally.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid R-NV, arrogantly said Democrats are happy to talk to the Republicans about anything they want, but only if a spending bill is passed and the government shutdown ends.
The White House called Wednesday’s meeting useful and said the president is glad it took place. However, before the talks, Obama told CNBC that he has “bent over backwards” to work with the Republicans, which People’s Pundit Daily has provided substantial evidence enough to deem that comment ludicrous. He said he is exasperated, calling the government shutdown totally unnecessary.
The U.S. government shut down at midnight Monday after Democrats refused to negotiate with Republicans, let alone pass spending bills that would defund or postpone the health care overhaul.
Obama said no president can govern effectively if he allows extremists from either party to extort concessions, but apparently the president can only unilaterally alter laws, which unlike the executive, is actually a power granted to the legislature by the Constitution. He called on Speaker Boehner to bring a “clean” spending bill, one that funded the government without any conditions related to the health care reform law, to the House floor for a vote.
The shutdown has furloughed more than 800,000 federal workers and closed national parks and many federal agencies. The shutdown is not affecting Voice of America broadcasts, but it has closed the Smithsonian museums and services like tax offices, help for veterans, and some food aid for the poor.
The government shutdown is also forcing Obama to cancel stops in Malaysia and the Philippines during his trip to Asia, which starts Saturday. VOA White House correspondent Dan Robinson reports that Obama still plans to visit Indonesia and Brunei for the APEC and East Asia summits.
Implementation of the Affordable Care Act, nicknamed “Obamacare,” went ahead as scheduled Tuesday. It is intended to provide health insurance coverage to millions of Americans who otherwise cannot afford or get coverage.
Republican opponents of Obamacare say it forces people, including small businesses, to buy expensive insurance policies against their will, hurting the economy.
A bipartisan group of about 40 House lawmakers is holding private talks to find a compromise to end the shutdown, said Representative Reid Ribble, a Wisconsin Republican.
The number of Republicans, including Representatives Dent and Peter King of New York, pressing Boehner to call a vote on a Senate-passed spending bill free of Obamacare-related measures had grown to 20 by today, enough to pass a clean bill if all Democrats joined in. Five of them met with Boehner before he and other congressional leaders met with Obama at the White House.
“There’s a group of us – Charlie Dent, myself and other pragmatists – that are just spit-balling some ideas” to “help leadership bring an end to this,” said New York Representative Michael Grimm, who attended the meeting.
Representative Michael Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican who’s also part of the group, said Boehner “very clearly wants a long-term resolution that puts the country on a more solid economic and financial footing.”
Michael Steel, the speaker’s spokesman, didn’t comment on specific meetings with members, saying his boss “constantly listens to members from every part of our conference.”
Representative Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the Budget Committee, said House leaders see talks “converging” over a spending deal and the debt ceiling. “From the get-go, we’ve wanted to get a budget agreement to grow this economy and get this debt under control,” he said.
Ryan isn’t the only Republican who has tipped his hand that the Republicans are looking at the possibility of rolling the shutdown and debt ceiling into one.
Michigan Representative Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, also said “we’re at a point where we need a broader solution here.” Rep. Camp said Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew called him the night of Oct. 1 to remind him that the U.S. has used “all of the extraordinary measures” to extend the nation’s borrowing power, slated to be exhausted on Oct. 17. And those involved with the meeting expressed Boehner’s conscientious plan to address both issues at once.
Whether President Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic Party will be open to such a solution, is far from certain.