Government Shutdown FY2014: Day Three — High Drama of a Different Kind

Government Shutdown FY2014: Day Three — High Drama of a Different Kind

As if a government shutdown and looming debt crisis weren’t enough, Washington had a dose of a very different kind of high drama today as a woman took Secret Service and Capitol Hill police on a high speed chase from the White House to Capitol Hill and ultimately was killed by police officers.

The prospects for the House and the Senate reaching any kind of resolution today were slim to begin with, but the mid-afternoon incident that suspended congressional proceedings as the Capitol was placed on lockdown after shots were fired in two locations on the Capitol grounds, contributed to the tension pervading Washington.   As of this hour, authorities have identified the 34-year-old woman from Connecticut who allegedly first tried to enter the White House grounds and then led Secret Service agents on a high speed chase across town to Capitol Hill, but do not know her motive.

Congress resumed operations after the lockdown was lifted and business returned to the current normal of gridlock.  No substantive progress was made on getting the government back to work — many are pointing out the Secret Service and Capitol police officers responding to today’s crisis are all working while not being paid — or dealing with the debt limit.

A couple of interesting developments did occur, however.

  • House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) reportedly said that he would not permit the government to default.  At least as important as keeping the government operating is the issue of the debt limit, which Treasury officials expect to reach around October 17.  The fear of a government default worries Wall Street, among others, and Boehner’s statement offers hope that he is willing to bring to the House floor a bill to either suspend or raise the debt limit.   If all Democrats vote for it, only a small percentage of Republican votes are needed for it to pass.  While Boehner prefers to bring bills to the floor only if he knows that a majority of his Republican Caucus will vote yes — the so-called “Hastert rule” after former Speaker Dennis Hastert who reputedly initiated it, though he disavowed it today — he has done so in rare instances.   As a note of caution, however, Boehner also had indicated that he did not want a government shutdown, but in the final analysis, sided with Tea Party Republicans, which led that to result.
  • Grover Norquist, who created the pledge that most Republicans have signed that they will never raise taxes and who is dedicated to reducing government spending, publicly criticized Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who is at the center of the government shutdown.  Cruz’s determination to link government funding with delaying or defunding the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is why agreement has not been reached to fund the government for a few weeks while debate continues on political issues.  Cruz has been criticized by many fellow Republicans for his tactics, but adding Norquist to the list may give some Republicans relief that if they break with the current Republican stance, they may not be endangering their chances for reelection.  Norquist told Ezra Klein of the Washington Post that Cruz “pushed House Republicans into traffic and wandered away.”

The challenge ahead, however, was captured by a quote from Tea Party Republican Rep. Martin Stutzman (R-IN), who told The Washington Examiner “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this [shutdown].  And I don’t know what that even is.”

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