Government Shutdown FY2014: Day Two

Government Shutdown FY2014: Day Two

No signs of compromise emerged today in the showdown over FY2014 government funding.  The government remains in partial shutdown status, with only the military and excepted activities continuing.  A meeting at the White House between the President and congressional leaders in late afternoon was unproductive.

Republicans, especially in the House, insist that funding the government be tied to a delay in implementing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which actually went into effect yesterday — the government shutdown notwithstanding.

Democrats continue to insist that Congress pass a “clean” Continuing Resolution (CR) devoid of political issues that only funds the government.  Senate Democrats have been seeking a CR that lasts through November 15, so the debate is over just 6 weeks worth of funding.

Another showdown is imminent over raising the debt limit, which is expected to reach its $16.7 trillion cap around October 17.   Some Democrats now want to link a CR for FY2014 with raising or suspending the debt limit, dealing with both issues simultaneously.

Meanwhile, House Republicans renewed an approach that failed yesterday, bringing narrowly written bills that would fund specific government activities to the floor of the House for a vote.   The three bills introduced yesterday — funding the Smithsonian and other government museums and National Parks, funding the District of Columbia (DC), and funding the Department of Veterans Affairs — were brought up under an expedited procedure called suspension of the rules, which requires a two-thirds majority. None passed

They were brought up again today along with two more under regular procedures where only a majority vote is required.  The two new bills would fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and pay members of the National Guard and reserves during the shutdown.  This time, three of the bills passed — to fund NIH, DC, and the museums and National Parks.   What their fate will be in the Senate is unclear. The White House issued a Statement of Administration policy today saying the President would veto such bills as they are “not a serious or responsible way” to run the government.

President Obama met with the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and Senate for 90 minutes at the White House late this afternoon, but no progress was made.

The situation really is in the hands of the American people.   If they complain loudly enough, their elected leaders are likely to respond, but although there are polls indicating that most Americans object to tying government funding to the political goal of delaying or defunding Obamacare, there was no march on Washington today demanding change.  Those polls also show a not insignificant minority support the House Republicans’ current stance.   A Quinnipiac University poll today, for example, found 72 percent of Americans oppose the shutdown as a way to delay or defund Obamacare, but 22 percent do not.  The poll also found that 64 percent do not want Congress to block an increase in the debt limit as a method of opposing Obamacare, but 27 percent do.

Government Executive published statistics today showing that 98 percent of NASA workers have been furloughed, which is not the record.  The National Science Foundation furloughed 99 percent of its workforce.  The agencies with the fewest furloughs are those engaged in public safety and security such as the Department of Homeland Security (14 percent) and the Justice Department (16 percent).  The Department of Defense has furloughed 50 percent of its civilian workforce.   Military personnel are still on the job.

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