The House has a new plan to ease the shutdown blues

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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UPDATE — All three piecemeal funding bills failed to pass the House Tuesday evening. The bills would have funded veterans affairs, the National Parks Service, and the District of Columbia government. The closest vote came on the bill to fund the D.C. government, following an impassioned speech by non-voting Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who pleaded with her colleagues to fund the District.

“This debate is already heartbreaking to me,” she said. She appeared to be moved to tears, lamenting that funding for the D.C. government, which is controlled by congress, was being lumped in with other appropriations

“You are casting this city precisely where it cannot be cast, as just another federal appropriation,” she said.

“Please vote to keep the District of Columbia running,” she pleaded, a plea that was ultimately unsuccessful.

UPDATE, 5:50 p.m. — The White House announced that President Barack Obama would veto the House proposal of piecemeal funding.

“These piecemeal efforts are not serious, and they are no way to run a government,” White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said in a statement, the Washington Post reported. “If House Republicans are legitimately concerned about the impacts of a shut down — which extend across government from our small businesses to women, children and seniors — they should do their job and pass a clean CR to reopen the government.”

“The president and the Senate have been clear that they won’t accept this kind of game-playing, and if these bills were to come to the president’s desk, he would veto them,” she said.

A spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner knocked the White House for issuing a veto threat on the bills, after signing into law a bill to insure pay for military personnel during a shutdown.

“How does the White House justify signing the troop funding bill, but vetoing similar measures for veterans, National Parks, and District of Columbia?” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement. “The President can’t continue to complain about the impact of the government shutdown on veterans, visitors at National Parks, and DC while vetoing bills to help them. The White House position is unsustainably hypocritical.”

UPDATE, 4:30 p.m. — The Senate rejected the House’s proposal of funding individual government agencies in a piecemeal fashion.

“Republicans understand finally that the government is shut down. But now they are focusing on trying to cherry pick some of the few parts of government that they like,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “They don’t like it all, but they like a few parts of it. It’s just another wacky idea from the tea party-driven Republicans. You can tell tat the tea party still want to keep the government shut down.”

“We support veterans and parks. We support the F.B.I. We support veterans. We support the federal government. That’s our job, that’s what we do,” Reid went on. “But, Mr. President, we can’t … be forced to choose between parks and cancer research or disease control or highway safety or the F.B.I., or, as we’ve heard here today, on and on, with examples of our national security agencies cut by more than 70 percent of their personnel.”

“The Republicans seem willing to fund veterans, but what about the rest of the government? First we need to end the government shutdown, and then Democrats are happy to agree on funding specific items,” Reid said.

WASHINGTON — The House will begin voting Tuesday on a series of bills to ease the pain of a government shutdown by voting to fund specific agencies one by one.

Tuesday’s votes will be to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs, the District of Columbia and the National Parks Service.

The goal is to undo some of the pain caused by a government shutdown, which shut the doors of a number of federal agencies and left many of their employees unsure of when they would get their next paycheck.

The strategy is in line with what Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee began pushing as it became more and more clear that a shutdown was going to happen.

“What I’m pushing for is a series of segmented funding bills that will keep the government funded in most areas,” Lee told The Daily Caller late Monday night.

“That’s where I would like to see the House go,” he said.

Cruz made a similar suggestion on CNN Monday.

“I don’t know what else you do when they won’t agree to sit down and work it out,” said Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, asked if he would support those bills.

“We’re going to keep passing bills on suspension that’ll continue to fund parts of government, and we’ll send them over to [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid’s desk and say keep the government running,” Louisiana Rep. John Fleming told reporters Tuesday. “We’re kind of reversing his argument, which is ‘let’s fully fund government then talk,’ what we’re saying is: ‘Let’s talk while we’re fully funding government on a piecemeal basis.’ And unfortunately he’s probably going to block the funding part, we’ll see.”

In the meantime, Fleming said, Republicans will push for a compromise to fund the government between the House and the Senate brokered by a conference committee.

“We’re going to keep reaching out to the other side. We’ll probably meet at least once a day with our conferees. It may be a room empty of Democrats, but there’ll be Republicans there,” Fleming said.

Reid has already rejected the idea of going to conference, and the Senate voted to reject the idea Tuesday morning. But some House Republicans remain undeterred in their quest to get concessions on Obamacare on the government funding bill.

“I think realistically we could actually get a one-year funding of the government with a one-year delay of Obamacare,” said Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador. “I think [President Barack] Obama actually wins there; Obama actually gets something that he wants, which is to avoid all these fights, which we also want, and then we can get what we want, which is the one-year delay.”

Fleming pointed to comments by Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin Tuesday morning, saying there could be room for compromise on the medical device tax.

“We’re already hearing from the other side, ‘well, maybe there is something we can do,'” he said, saying he still felt they could get concessions on Obamacare. Fleming said he himself would not vote for a bill that just funded the government and repealed the medical device tax.

“I personally would not vote to just end the device tax. It should be ended, but as a bigger piece,” he said.

Some more moderate Republicans have begun to clamor for a clean funding bill with nothing attached, which is the only thing Reid has said the Senate will accept.

“I’m just more concerned about their not being a clean [funding bill],” said New York Rep. Peter King, who has openly condemned leadership’s plans over the past 24 hours.

California Rep. Devin Nunes also said he disliked the plan, but said that now that the government had shut down, they simply needed to hang on for the ride.

“We had some good moral ground, high ground, on the issue of the individual mandate … but what we didn’t fight on that,” Nunes said.

“Now you have to keep up with this Ted Cruz lemming strategy,” he said.

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