WASHINGTON – The latest proposal from House Republicans to reopen only certain parts of government failed Tuesday night as Democrats insisted they would not pick winners and losers among federal services, and the White House threatened a veto.
The latest Republican plan was to keep open national parks, veterans services and the District of Columbia, an approach modeled on recommendations by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has led the GOP’s strategy in the standoff that resulted in the first shutdown of the federal government in 17 years.
“If the Democrats are really concerned about funding the VA, let’s fund it,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), as House Republicans emerged from an afternoon strategy session.
But three bills failed in the face of Democratic opposition. House Republicans used a procedure that required a two-thirds vote, hoping that would pressure Democrats to vote for them, knowing the bills would fail without their support. All three, however, were rejected largely on party-line votes.
"These piecemeal efforts are not serious, and they are no way to run a government,” said White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage. “If House Republicans are legitimately concerned about the impacts of a shutdown – which extend across government, from our small businesses to women, children and seniors – they should do their job.”
Tuesday was the first day of the government shutdown, which began at midnight after Congress failed to reach a compromise in time to fund federal agencies with the start of the new fiscal year.
Republicans had been demanding that Democrats agree to stop President Obama’s new healthcare law, but shifted their demands Tuesday after the Affordable Care Act’s online marketplaces launched.
The Senate earlier Tuesday rejected a House request to begin a conference committee with members from both chambers to resolve the parties' differences over the Affordable Care Act.
House Republicans are now looking more broadly at the budget battles as the shutdown begins to merge with the need to raise the nation’s debt limit by mid-October.
“We’re going to start picking off those priorities that are important,” said Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.), as lawmakers prepared to vote to reopen the national parks and services for veterans. “The IRS was last on the list. The EPA was right above it.”
But Democrats refused to cherry-pick among the nation’s federal operations and services.
“The latest Republican proposal is a cynical one that pits important priorities against each other,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). “People shouldn’t have to choose between help for our veterans and cancer research. … And we shouldn’t have to choose between visiting our national parks or enrolling kids in Head Start.”
Neither side appeared closer to breaking the stalemate late Tuesday, as the shutdown appeared headed into a second day, with 800,000 workers furloughed and federal parks, museums and government services shut down.
The Capitol was quiet Tuesday as tours were canceled and congressional offices were running on skeletal staffs. Many lawmakers’ telephone lines went straight to voicemail, as staffers were furloughed, with some lawmakers handling phone duties themselves.
Several said they were declining their pay during the shutdown, or donating it to charity.
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