Capitol building eerily quiet as government shutdown nears

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) appears on
Lawmakers working to avoid a government shutdown were no where to be found on Sunday. Credit: Reuters

With just a day to go before a midnight Monday deadline to avoid a federal government shutdown, the U.S. Capitol building was eerily quiet on Sunday, with meeting rooms locked and no lawmakers to be found inside.

Senate Democrats decided on Sunday not to take up a measure approved in the early hours of the morning by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives that ties funding governmental agencies with a one-year delay of President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare law.

After a day of bitter debate and finger-pointing, Republicans in the House also voted to repeal a medical device tax that would generate about $30 billion over 10 years to help fund the healthcare program. The measure attracted some Democratic support.

And in a sign that lawmakers might be resigned to a shutdown, the House unanimously approved a bill to keep paying U.S. soldiers in the event the government runs out of money October 1, the start of the new fiscal year, to run many programs.

As government agencies edge toward closing their doors, the standoff is a harbinger of the next big political battle: a far-more consequential bill to raise the federal government’s borrowing authority. Failure to raise the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling by mid-October would force the United States to default on some payment obligations – an event that could cripple the U.S. economy and send shockwaves around the globe.

When the Senate next convenes at 2 p.m. on Monday, it will maneuver to strip out the amendments to delay “Obamacare” from the House bill and send back a “clean” funding bill, known as a continuing resolution, or CR, that won Senate approval last week. That bill keeps the government funded through November 15.

“There is no ping-pong. House Republicans just need to decide whether to pass our clean CR or shut the government down,” said a senior Senate Democratic aide on Sunday.

And yet, neither side wants to be the last to cast the final vote that would lead to a shutdown, a concern that has turned the funding measure into a hot potato tossed between the two chambers. Polls consistently show the American public is tired of political showdowns and opposed to a shutdown.

House Speaker John Boehner accused the Senate of shirking its responsibilities by taking Sunday off, claiming that Americans want neither a government shutdown nor the president’s healthcare law to go into effect.

“If the Senate stalls until Monday afternoon instead of working today, it would be an act of breathtaking arrogance by the Senate Democratic leadership,” Boehner said in a statement.

On Sunday morning TV talk shows, representatives of the two parties tried to pin blame on the other side for failing to avoid a calamity.

Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House Majority Whip, told the “Fox New Sunday” program that the House simply will not pass a “clean” funding bill on Monday and will continue to try to modify Obamacare by adding new provisions to any measure the Senate passes.

“It will be additions that Senate Democrats said they can support,” McCarthy said, without specifying these “other options” to rein in the healthcare reform law.

VETO THREAT

Obama has threatened to veto any bill that delays his healthcare program.

The funding impasse is the culmination of more than three years of failed conservative efforts to repeal Obamacare, a program aimed at extending health insurance to millions of those without coverage.

Republicans argue that Obamacare, key parts of which are set to launch on October 1, is a massive and unnecessary government intrusion into medicine that will cause premiums to skyrocket and damage the economy.

And if the battle over Obamacare pushes up to the mid-October deadline to raise the debt ceiling, U.S. stocks may suffer. When gridlock threatened a debt default in 2011, the Dow Jones industrials fell about 2,100 points from July 21 to August 9, with the market needing two more months to regain its footing.

Under a government shutdown, more than a million federal employees would be furloughed from their jobs, with the impact depending on the duration of a shutdown.

The current timetable could leave Boehner with the most difficult decision of his career: whether to approve a clean continuing resolution the Senate will likely send it Monday afternoon or allow the government to shut down for the first time since late 1995.

In a government shutdown, spending for functions considered essential, related to national security or public safety, would continue along with benefit programs such as Medicare health insurance and Social Security retirement benefits for seniors.

But civilian federal employees – from people who process forms and handle regulatory matters to workers at national parks and museums in Washington – would be temporarily out of work.

The last government shutdown ran from December 16, 1995, to January 6, 1996, and was the product of a budget battle between Democratic President Bill Clinton and Republicans, led by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Republicans suffered a public backlash when voters re-elected Clinton in a landslide the following November, a lesson never forgotten by senior Republicans, including Boehner.

 



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Sister of accused Boston Marathon bombers arrested for…

The sister of the accused Boston Marathon bombers was arrested in New York City for threatening a woman over the phone, saying she could "put a bomb on you," police…

Local

Mayor announces public housing improvements

Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem on Wednesday, calling for the scaffolding to come down at NYCHA complexes across…

National

Peter Theo Curtis: American released by Syrian militants…

An American writer freed this week from two years in the captivity of insurgents in Syria spoke briefly outside his family's Cambridge home Wednesday of…

Local

Bratton defends 'broken windows' work as NYPD support…

Sixty percent of those polled said they support the "broken windows" theory approach popularized by Commissioner Bratton since his first term in the 1990s.

Television

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

Season 11’s top four dancers gave their final performances before America’s Favorite Dancers are announced next week.

Going Out

Labor Day in NYC: Make the last weekend…

Soon, it’ll be time for wool accessories and knee-high boots. Even the Pumpkin Spice Latte has already arrived — but we still have one last…

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

MUSIC The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees…

Going Out

5 things to do this weekend in NYC

The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees expected. David Guetta,…

NFL

Mario Manningham on the bubble as Giants play…

Former Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham hopes his second go-around with Big Blue doesn’t end with Saturday’s final cut day.

NFL

Source: Stephen Hill 'faces a battle' to make…

A team source says Stephen Hill, who has battled injuries and poor performances during his first two years, is no lock to make the Jets’ final roster.

Sports

Serena Williams leaving legacy of talented American women…

It seems only a matter of when, not if, Serena Williams will win her 18th career grand slam championship.

College

When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…

Sex

The 10 types of people you meet online

Does it ever seem like online dating profiles tend to get a little repetitive? It turns out you are not the only one to have…