Here Are The Sleaziest Things Congress Has Done During The Shutdown

We’re now almost two weeks into the government shutdown, and there’s been no shortage of outrage over the fact that Congress remains unable to figure out how to end it. Recent polling has shown record levels of support for replacing every member of Congress, and lawmakers are now less popular than witches and dog poop.

This level of unpopularity may not come as a surprise to anyone who’s followed the actions of Congress. The shutdown, brought on late last month by House Republicans who insisted that any measure to fund the government must also delay or dismantle Obamacare, has taken a nationwide toll on federal workers and programs. With around 800,000 federal employees furloughed without pay and programs for veterans, women and children increasingly becoming hobbled by the congressional impasse, lawmakers have been more successful at upsetting the people they serve than at ending the shutdown.

Here are some of the sleaziest things members of Congress have done so far: Read more

House disarray as US debt bills falter

Efforts by the House of Representatives to end the US debt ceiling showdown have collapsed in startling fashion, with the Republican leadership failing to muster enough support for its own plans to avert default.

House Speaker John Boehner’s team unveiled two paths out of the crisis on Tuesday, including a stripped-down Republican bill extending the US debt ceiling until February 7 and funding government for the next two months.

The first effort never got off the ground and a rules committee postponed a key hearing that would allow the second measure to reach the floor, essentially killing it.

“There will be no action, no votes and the Rules Committee will not be in tonight,” the committee’s Republican chairman Pete Sessions told reporters as the party failed to close ranks behind the proposal.

The plan came 15 days into a government shutdown, and little more than 24 hours before the United States hits a deadline when it will start running out of funds to pay its bills.

It leaves very little wiggle room for the House and Senate to fashion an agreement before the Thursday deadline that will not get hung up in procedural steps, which could happen in the Senate if any member objects to a fast-track process for a deal.

Amid rising anxiety on the markets, the financial rating agency Fitch put the United States on warning for a downgrade from its top grade AAA spot.

Aides said the House failure throws the responsibility of crafting a deal to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and top Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, who had put earlier negotiations on hold after Boehner surprised many by trying to cobble together a House plan.

“Given tonight’s events, the leaders have decided to work toward a solution that would reopen the government and prevent default,” said McConnell’s communications director Michael Brumas.

The rapid collapse of the House bill – precipitated, some say, by a memo from conservative think tank Heritage Action which threatened to score lawmakers poorly if they voted for the measure – shocked some Republicans.

“Unbelievable day. No House bill on CR (the continuing resolution to fund government) or debt,” Republican Lee Terry said on Twitter, adding it was now “up to McConnell” to stand tough on maintaining federal spending cuts.

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic minority leader who lost the speaker’s gavel to Boehner in early 2011 after Republicans won back control of the House, took a swipe at her rival over the debacle.

“If @SpeakerBoehner is looking for something to vote on tonight, how about the Senate bill to open govt?” she tweeted.

Boehner’s latest measure stripped out provisions that delayed taxes which help fund President Barack Obama’s health care law.

It also funded government until only December 15, so that Republican lawmakers could take another shot at removing an “Obamacare” provision known as the contraception mandate before it goes into force January 1.

The bill would have also eliminated health insurance subsidies for members of Congress, aides and White House and cabinet officials and stripped the Treasury’s power to take special measures to manage US debt obligations.

“Even if this bill passed tonight, what would it have done?” Republican congressman Peter King, an outspoken critic of Tea Party-backed efforts to dismantle Obamacare through a shutdown and debt ceiling fight.

“After shutting down the government for two and a half weeks, laying off 800,000 people, all the damage we caused, all we would end up doing was taking away health insurance from congressional employees. That’s it?

“That’s what you go to war for? That’s what we shut down the United States government for?” he added.

$1.1 TRILLION RANSOM DEMAND OR OBAMA WILL CRASH GLOBAL ECONOMY

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President Barack Obama is demanding a $1.1 trillion “ransom”–or else he will not allow the debt ceiling to be raised. That’s the effective offer on the table from the president and Senate Democrats. They have now refused to pass a “clean” short-term debt ceiling hike unless Republicans agree to reverse the “sequester” spending cuts in the 2011 Budget Control Act that were enacted–at Obama’s suggestion–to end the last debt ceiling crisis.

The president, who has invited congressional leaders to conduct talks at the White House Monday afternoon, still continues to insist that he “will not pay a ransom for Congress reopening the government and raising the debt limit.” Yet he and his party are the ones insisting on a “ransom,” now that Republicans appear to be in the mood to compromise after opinion poll results last week showed them losing politically in the showdown.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) has claimed that the sequester dispute means that Democrats and Republicans are only $70 billion apart in budget negotiations. That is a blatant lie, as the total value of the sequester over ten years is $1.1 trillion. Democrats do not want a reprieve for one year–they want the entire sequester canceled so that they can continue spending on such priorities as the annual cowboy poetry festival in Nevada.

Last week, President Obama asked the press to “imagine if a Democratic Congress threatened to crash the global economy unless a Republican president agreed to gun background checks or immigration reform.” Now the White House and a Democrat-controlled Senate are threatening exactly that–unless Republicans agree to fork over $1.1 trillion, paid for with new “revenues” (i.e. taxes) on the American people. Ransom, indeed.

No deal yet as US debt deadline looms

The US is still facing a potentially devastating sovereign debt default after senators failed to agree on terms to reopen the federal government and raise the country’s borrowing limit.

Republicans and Democrats – at war over the country’s finances for more than two weeks – tried to shed a positive light on Sunday on a weekend of talks that despite the threat of global economic censure produced no solution.

The Senate convened a rare Sunday session to try and break the budgetary impasse that prompted the government to shut down on October 1, a move that has since damaged domestic confidence and undermined America’s reputation as the world’s leading economic superpower.

If the US debt ceiling is not raised by October 17, the Treasury would run out of money and could begin defaulting on its obligations for the first time in history.

Seeking to avert that scenario, Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid spoke with the top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, though nothing concrete was disclosed.

“I’m optimistic about the prospect for a positive conclusion,” Reid said.

Bank of France Governor Christian Noyer on Monday warned of dire consequences if there was no solution.

A default would be “a thunderbolt on the financial markets” that would set off “extremely violent and profound turbulence worldwide”, he told the daily Le Figaro.

In Asia, markets were down in part over the deadlocked talks.

Oil prices also edged lower in Asian trade, with West Texas Intermediate for delivery in November, down 29 US cents at $US101.73 in afternoon trade, and Brent North Sea crude for November down 17 US cents to $US111.11.

And the US dollar slipped in Singapore afternoon trade to Y98.27 from Y98.59 in New York late on Friday. Japanese markets are closed for a public holiday.

“So far, markets have not panicked because both parties have come out to reassure that they are working towards a compromise after every failed vote, keeping alive hopes for a last-minute deal,” Singapore-based DBS Bank said in a note.

US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew earlier told the International Monetary Fund’s policy steering committee that Washington understood its reputation as a safe harbour was at risk.

Stock markets are already factoring in a possible default if no deal is reached between President Barack Obama, his Democratic Party and rival Republicans by Thursday night.

Polls released since the shutdown show congress’s approval rating at record lows, with Republicans taking most of the blame.

Both parties in recent days indicated a deal must be reached at all cost despite the bitter rancour.

“This is something that’s wreaking havoc around the world and will affect economic growth, and I do hope that over the next week we’ll reach a conclusion and I think we will,” said Republican Senator Bob Corker .

Obama earlier rejected an offer by Republicans in the House of Representatives to lift the debt ceiling for six weeks while negotiations would continue on reopening the government, insisting on a longer-term solution.

Following talks with the top House Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, the president said they were not budging from their position.

Obama and Pelosi “reinforced that there must be a clean debt limit increase that allows us to pay the bills we have incurred and avoid default”, the White House said in a statement.

“The House needs to pass the clean continuing resolution to open up the government and end the shutdown that is hurting middle class families and businesses across the country.”

Senate leader Reid had on Saturday turned down a second compromise proposal, offered by moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins.

It called for lifting the US debt limit for up to a year, reopening the government and repealing a tax on medical devices under Obama’s signature healthcare law.

But Collins said her proposal could still become the basis of a deal, saying she had support from a growing, bipartisan group of senators.

Senator Charles Schumer, a key Democratic power broker, said Reid and McConnell “were not that far apart” on Saturday, when they held their first talks of the crisis.

Democrats, meanwhile, have added a demand of their own – that any deal also involve undoing the across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester that went into effect earlier this year.

Schumer acknowledged it was a “sticking point”.

Global pressure for a deal in Washington is mounting.

“The standing of the US economy would, again, be at risk,” International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde said, comparing the effects of failing to raise the debt ceiling and reopening the government to the 2008 global financial meltdown.