The federal government shutdown will enter its fourth day on Friday after Congress moved no further toward resolving its fiscal showdown and President Barack Obama ratcheted up pressure on Republicans.
A flurry of legislative activity at the beginning of this week tempered by the end of Thursday, slowed further by an incident on Capitol Hill in which a woman attempted to breach security there and at the White House. The dramatic encounter forced a temporary lockdown of the Capitol complex, and halted House and Senate proceedings for about an hour.
But Congress showed no indications of progress toward resolving their differences over funding the government before the security interruption. The continued impasse, though, prompted Obama to sharpen his rhetoric toward Republicans in Congress, singling out House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, as the lone obstacle to re-opening the government.
“The American people are not pawns in some political game,” Obama said at a construction company based in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C.
Lawmakers in both parties seemed more resigned than ever to a prolonged shutdown that could stretch through the Oct. 17 deadline by which Congress must increase the nation’s debt ceiling – that is, authorize the government to borrow more money to finance its existing obligations.
On that question, Obama vowed Thursday, there would be “no negotiating.” His Treasury Department warned simultaneously that if Congress were to fail to raise the debt ceiling, it would risk economic calamity worse than any seen since the Great Depression.
But lawmakers spent more of their time on efforts to place blame for the shutdown with the party opposite theirs.
The House GOP pushed forward with votes on a number of mini-spending bills purposefully crafted to reinstate spending for some of the most visible closures forced by the shutdown.
The legislation – like one bill to reinstate funding for the National Institutes of Health – were more intended as vehicles for Republican messaging than anything else. Republicans, for instance, suggested that Democrats were unsympathetic to cancer patients for opposing that bill because the shutdown meant that children with cancer could not enter into new trial therapy programs.
The White House has said that Obama would veto each of these, and Senate Democrats were expected to kill the items before they ever reached the president’s desk. Democrats argued – as they have for days on end – that the best way to restore funding for these programs would be to reinstate funding for all of government by passing the six-week “clean” extension of government spending favored by the Senate.
And during his remarks in Maryland, Obama sought to emphasize that the adverse effects of the shutdown extended well beyond the few examples highlighted by Republicans in Congress.
"Right now, hundreds of thousands of Americans, hard-working Americans, suddenly aren't receiving their paycheck," he said. "The impacts of a shutdown go way beyond those things that you're seeing on television."
But as the partisan bickering, all indicators pointed to work in Congress through the weekend to reach an agreement on spending that has, so far, eluded them. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he expected to continue working into Saturday and Sunday.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said late Thursday that Republicans would announce their plans for weekend in the House the next morning.
Democrats in the House meanwhile tried several times to use procedural maneuvers to force a vote on the “clean,” six-week extension in government spending favored by Obama and Senate Democrats. But even though the tally of House Republicans to endorse a clean continuing resolution mounted, GOP lawmakers in the House held out against the procedural votes that would have handed Democrats a strategic victory.
As the shutdown persisted, new polling suggested that three-quarters of Americans wished that Republicans, along with Obama and his Democratic allies, would come together and compromise on the fiscal impasse.
But at this stage of the shutdown, more Americans blame Republicans in Congress for the shutdown than Obama and Democrats in Congress. Forty-four percent of Americans blame the GOP for the shutdown, found a new CBS News poll conducted after the shutdown came to pass. Thirty-five percent of American blamed Obama and congressional Democrats, while 17 percent blamed both parties for the shuttering of the government.
First published October 2 2013, 1:32 AM