House Democratic and Republican leaders traded jabs over the possibility of a government shutdown Friday — as the two sides remained deeply divided on how far to go in slashing government programs.
The House continued slogging through dozens of amendments to a bill that would cut federal spending by $61 billion over the next six months, and it’s unlikely they’ll be able to come to an agreement with Senate Democrats on the numbers before their deadline of March 4.
More likely, before the deadline the House and Senate will simply be forced to pass a much simpler short-term funding bill that doesn’t make such deep cuts and punts the spending debate further down the road.
Democrats would like nothing better than to try to force Republicans to shutter the government, and they seem to have some leverage because the GOP knows all to well about the political risks of having elderly voters waiting for their Social Security checks to come in the mail, among other serious consequences,
“The last thing the American people need is for Congressional Republicans or Democrats to draw a line in the sand that hinders keeping the government open,” said Nadeam Elshami, spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
So far, Republicans are refusing to be pushed in the corner on the issue.
“Washington Democrats are rooting for a government shutdown, hoping to take partisan advantage,” said Michael Steel, spokesman to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). “Republicans, on the other hand, are listening to the American people, who want us to cut spending - not shut the government down.”
Throughout the week, Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew has predicted that cooler heads would prevail and has repeatedly said both sides have agreed not to engage in such dramatic brinkmanship.
Yet, Congressional Democrats all week seemed to be trying to keep talk of a government shutdown alive.
While Pelosi, during a press conference Thursday, said she didn’t believe a shutdown would occur, she was quick to highlight all the potential pitfalls of doing so.
“…So much is at stake if this great government shuts down; in terms of social security checks of our seniors, meeting the needs of our men and women in uniform, be that domestic or in our armed forces,” she told reporters. “Ever category you can name will be affected by it.”