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
International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Local

De Blasio, Bratton defend city's efforts after Eric…

Mayor Bill de Blasio justified the city's response to the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died while in police custody earlier this month.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.