At the beginning of week two of a federal government shutdown, the House approved H.J. Res. 77, the Food and Drug Safety Act, by a vote of 235 to 162. This is another one of the stop-gap measures to fund specific parts of the federal government, including national parks, veterans benefits and food aid for women and children. Senators returned for general speeches and to consider a pair of judicial nominations.
Senate Majority Leader Reid came to the floor today to again call on House Speaker John Boehner to let the House vote on a “clean” continuing resolution and end the government shutdown. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell countered, saying that the House work on piecemeal, target CRs shows progress.
Off the floor, lawmakers in both chambers are still searching for ways to resolve their differences over how and when the federal government should re-open. Funding for all government operations expired last Tuesday and have been shut down for a week.
Over the weekend, both houses of Congress met in unusual Saturday sessions. The House passed a bill to pay furloughed government workers.
Speaking Sunday on ABC’s This Week about the debt ceiling, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said the House won’t pass a measure to increase to the debt limit without "conditions" to reduce the deficit.
Sen. Majority Harry Reid's (D-NV) office responded in a written statement Monday saying, "from refusing to let the House vote on a bill that was his idea in the first place...to stating that the House doesn't have the votes to pass a clean CR at current spending levels, there is now a consistent pattern of Speaker Boehner saying things that fly in the face of the facts or stand at odds with his past actions."
Last week, the House passed five of these smaller bills to reopen parts of the government. All measures passed by the House next go the Senate for consideration. To date, the Senate has not taken up any of these stop-gap funding bills. One bill that might find bipartisan support is the bill to retroactively pay government workers for time lost during the shutdown.
Among the many things that have been canceled or delayed by the government shut down are the monthly jobs numbers, usually released on the first Friday of the month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Last Wednesday, President Obama called a meeting at the White House with House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). The meeting concluded with no agreement on ending the federal government shutdown.
"The President won't negotiate," House Speaker Boehner told reporters following the meeting. Calling the discussion a "polite conversation," Speaker Boehner said "it's time" for the Senate to appoint conferees to negotiations on the continuing resolution.
Senate Leader Reid said that "Speaker Boehner can't accept 'yes' as an answer." He said Senate Democrats were willing to negotiate with the Speaker if he would open the government. "We'll talk about anything you want to talk about," Reid added, but the Speaker only wanted to discuss the short-term continuing resolution.
In a readout of the meeting, the White House press secretary stated, "The President made clear to the Leaders that he is not going to negotiate over the need for Congress to act to reopen the government or to raise the debt limit to pay the bills Congress has already incurred." The statement noted that the President was "glad that the Leaders were able to engage in this useful discussion this evening."
Earlier last week, the Senate tabled a request by the House to name negotiators to a conference committee that would work on the Continuing Resolution. Sen. Reid has asked that the House vote to reopen the government before moving to a conference committee on the budget.
This shutdown is the first in 17 years, closing national parks, museums and federal offices. 800,000 federal workers are expected to be furloughed. Only employees deemed "essential," mostly those whose jobs involve national security or public safety, are allowed to work. Those employees will not be paid until the government reopens, however.