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

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Help kids with cancer? Reid asks: ‘Why would we want to do that?’

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is blaming Republicans for the National Institutes of Health turning away cancer patients. But when asked why the Senate wouldn’t try to help “one child who has cancer” by approving a mini-spending bill, he shot back: “Why would we want to do that?”

The tense exchange occurred Wednesday, as Senate Democrats tried to lambaste Republicans ahead of a vote where the House ultimately approved funding the NIH and other agencies — a bid to ease the pain amid the budget stand-off.

Reid has opposed the measures, saying that if Republicans want to end the government suspension they’ll have to simply approve a “clean” budget bill — devoid of any provision that would hurt ObamaCare.

But Reid was challenged at a Democratic press conference by CNN’s Dana Bash about why the Senate wouldn’t consider the NIH bill.

“If you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn’t you do it?” she asked.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., quietly asked, “Why pit one against the other?”

And Reid immediately chimed in: “Why would we want to do that? I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force base that are sitting home. They have a few problems of their own.”

Reid’s response was widely noticed by Republicans. “How out-of-touch and heartless can Senate Democrats be?” an email from the National Republican Senatorial Committee asked.

But Reid fired back, suggesting he’s being taken out of context.

“Republicans are in such desperate straits that they have literally resorted to accusing me of not caring about kids with cancer. Shameful,” his office tweeted.

Reid argues that the Republicans are trying to “pick and choose” what parts of government to keep open, and that they should be dropping their resistance to ObamaCare and voting to keep all of government open.

“You talk about reckless and irresponsible. Wow. What this is all about is ObamaCare. They are obsessed. I don’t know what other word I can use,” Reid said.

Republicans say it’s Democrats’ refusal to negotiate the health law that has landed the country in this position.

“The entire government is shut down right now because Washington Democrats refuse to even talk about fairness for all Americans under ObamaCare,” Mike Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said in a statement. “Today, the House will continue to pass bills that reflect the American people’s priorities.”

US government shuts down

117475-obamaUS government agencies were ordered to close for the first time in more than 17 years after Congress stalemated over Republican efforts to block President Barack Obama’s health care law.

US government agencies were ordered to close for the first time in more than 17 years after Congress stalemated over Republican efforts to block President Barack Obama’s health care law.

More than 800,000 federal workers were to spend Tuesday, the first day of the new fiscal year, on unpaid leave as agency managers executed contingency plans for the costly process of closing down operations indefinitely.

The official word to shut down came from the White House just before midnight Monday. Hours earlier, the Senate, by a 54-46 party-line vote, killed a House measure that would have funded government agencies for six weeks but delayed key parts of Obamacare for a year.

Shutdown: What happens now?

It was the second such vote that the Senate took during a day in which the two chambers exchanged volleys of legislation with little expectation that any of it would become law.

The one exception to the legislative futility was a bill to ensure that military service members would be paid during the shutdown. Obama signed it into law late Monday night.

The House’s final legislative effort passed 228-201, mostly along party lines. It would have delayed for one year the requirement in the health care law that individuals have insurance or pay a fine and would have reduced benefits for members of Congress and some of their staff members.

Late at night, Republican leaders moved to set up a House-Senate committee that could seek a compromise in coming days. Democratic leaders asserted that they would not negotiate under duress and insisted that the House first pass a measure temporarily providing funds for government agencies.

Visa panic: Will this affect your travel?

“You know, with a bully you cannot let them slap you around,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said after the Senate’s initial vote. “They slap you around today, they slap you five or six times. Tomorrow it will be seven or eight times. We are not going to be bullied.”

Obama warned that a shutdown would harm the nation’s economy and vowed that the health care law, his signature domestic policy achievement, would move forward.

Indeed, among the ironies of the standoff is that a shutdown will have no effect on the law the Republicans tried to block. The money to implement the law does not depend on the annual spending bills stuck in the congressional logjam. A major element of Obamacare, online marketplaces that consumers without insurance can use to buy coverage, will open to the public Tuesday.

“That funding is already in place. You can’t shut it down,” Obama said during a short appearance earlier in the White House briefing room.

“This is a law that passed both houses of Congress, a law that bears my signature, a law that the Supreme Court upheld as constitutional, a law that voters chose not to repeal last November,” he said, referring to his re-election.

“I’m always willing to work with anyone of either party to make sure the Affordable Care Act works better,” he added. “But one faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government doesn’t get to shut down the entire government just to refight the results of an election.”

Republicans, for their part, insisted that blame for the stalemate fell on Democrats. The president and his party, they said, had put preserving Obamacare ahead of keeping government agencies running.

“Americans didn’t want Obamacare forced on them, and they don’t want a shutdown forced on them either,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. “Once again, Democrats are unwilling to listen.”

Obama spoke with the four leaders of the House and Senate on Monday evening, including a 10-minute conversation with House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, but neither side indicated progress toward a deal.

Late in the evening, after the Senate’s second set of votes, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, one of the few remaining GOP moderates, urged colleagues to compromise. “There are real lives, real families, laying awake wondering what the rest of the week is going to mean to them,” she said. “It’s not just about the next election.”

But on both sides, many more lawmakers were looking beyond Monday’s midnight deadline and focusing on which party would bear the brunt of public anger if a standoff disrupts government services.

The stalemate happened because Congress failed to pass any of the annual laws, known as appropriations, that provide money for government agencies. Federal law says agencies cannot spend money without an appropriation except when necessary to protect life or property, or in cases of programs that have permanent sources of funds.

Widespread disruption of services probably will not occur for a while. Many basic government functions do not depend on annual spending bills. Social Security cheques will go out as always, for example, as will payments under Medicare. Mail delivery will be unaffected. Courts, which have reserve funds that can last for some time, will still hear cases.

But as other government functions close, economists say, a prolonged shutdown will slow growth. A two-week standoff would shave about three-tenths of a percentage point off the current growth rate, projections indicate. Although not huge, that punch would sting in an economy expanding at less than 2 percent per year. A longer standoff would cut growth more.

The last time the government closed, during the Clinton administration, two shutdowns took place. One lasted five days; the other, affecting only part of the government, ran three weeks.

Who gets the political blame for a shutdown will have a big impact on how the standoff ends.

Nearly all Democratic strategists and many Republican ones think Democrats hold the upper hand in the current fight, indicating that Republicans would eventually have to yield. Polls so far have indicated that Americans are somewhat more likely to blame congressional Republicans than Obama for the stalemate, although the advantage Democrats have is much smaller than the one they enjoyed in the Clinton-era standoff.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday showed majorities of the public disapproving of the way all the major actors in the budget drama have handled their roles, but giving congressional Republicans the worst reviews. Obama got the approval of 41 percent and the disapproval of 50 percent. Congressional Republicans got just 26 percent approval and 63 percent disapproval; congressional Democrats, 34 percent approval and 56 percent disapproval.

Some conservative Republicans argue that Obamacare’s unpopularity ultimately will give them an advantage. Although polls show the health law is unpopular, the same surveys show the public does not support shutting down the government to block it.

In a CNN/ORC poll also released Monday, for example, Americans said, 60 percent to 34 percent, that it was “more important” for Congress to pass “a budget agreement that would avoid a government shutdown” than to approve legislation “preventing major provisions in the new health care law from taking effect.”

As several polls have shown, Democrats remain largely united behind Obama, but significant numbers of Republicans disapprove of their party’s leaders. That has proved true in Congress as well. Relatively conservative Democrats, such as Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Mark Pryor of Arkansas, have consistently voted with Reid during the current standoff. By contrast, divisions on the Republican side have been open and bitter and continued to plague the party Monday.

In closed-door meetings, some of the most conservative members objected to the leadership’s plans on the grounds that the latest House proposal would delay only part of Obamacare – the requirement that individuals buy health insurance – rather than the entire law.

On the other side, a group of Republicans, mostly from Northeastern and Midwestern states, said they believed the GOP should drop its efforts to block Obamacare and simply approve a measure to keep government agencies open. The group failed to round up enough support to block the Republican leadership’s plans on Monday, but it could become a factor if the standoff drags on.

The party’s current strategy is “a dead end,” said Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y. “We’re going to shut the government down, and, when all is said and done, we’re going to get blamed for it.

“We have too many people who live in their own echo chamber.”

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