Facebook

Twitter

Tumblr

iTunes

RSS

HEAR THIS HOUR'S UPDATE
News Pages

Entries in Government Shutdown (72)

Monday
Mar072011

Michael Steele: ‘Nothing Wrong with a Government Shutdown’

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- With Washington consumed by a fight over spending, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee said Monday that his party shouldn’t be afraid of a government shutdown, arguing that such a standoff would send a powerful signal to the public about the GOP’s commitment to cutting the budget.

“I personally think there's nothing wrong with a government shutdown,” Michael Steele told ABC News Monday.

“I've been an advocate for it over six, seven months now for the simple reason it is the shocker. It is the reality check that the spenders need to have, that those who are trying to chart a different course need to have, whether they are Republicans or Democrats in the Congress.”

He continued: “Republicans right now have an opportunity to put down some bright-line markers here on spending. I hope they do. I haven't seen it yet. I'm hoping that we will see it in the next week.”

Democrats and Republicans last week reached a short-term agreement to keep the government running through the end of next week. But without further action by Congress, a partial government shutdown would start next Friday -- a situation few in either party on Capitol Hill are eager to see develop.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Wednesday
Mar022011

Senate Passes Spending Bill To Avoid Government Shutdown 

Photo Courtesy - Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate on Wednesday passed a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown at week’s end and buy lawmakers two more weeks to reach a long-term funding deal, with the White House offering up Vice President Biden to lead those negotiations.  

The Senate voted 91-9 to pass the two-week extension that would cut $4 billion in funding. The bill now goes to the White House for President Obama’s signature.

The nine senators voting against the bill included Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the Senate’s number-four Democrat. The other lawmakers opposing the bill were Democrats Tom Harkin of Iowa, Carl Levin of Michigan, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Republicans Mike Crapo of Idaho, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Jim Risch of Idaho.

Republicans touted the bill’s passage as a victory after Democrats ultimately relented in their efforts to pass a short-term bill with no cuts at all.

“This is a long-awaited acknowledgement by Democrats in Congress that we have a spending problem around here,” the Senate’s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, said on the chamber floor Wednesday morning. “It’s hard to believe when we’re spending $1.6 trillion more than we’re taking in a single year, that it would take this long to cut a penny in spending, but it’s progress nonetheless.”

“It’s also encouraging to hear the White House say yesterday they’d be supportive of a four-week CR with $8 billion in cuts. So it’s encouraging that the White House and Congressional Democrats now agree that the status quo won’t work, that the bills we pass must include spending reductions.”

Democrats led by Harry Reid initially blasted the GOP’s stopgap proposal last Wednesday. Reid spokesman Jon Summers denounced it as an “extreme package,” a “non-starter” in the Senate, and “a two-week version of the reckless” $61 billion seven-month bill passed earlier by House Republicans.

But late last Friday they changed their stance, arguing that the two-week bill was actually a concession to Democrats since it included cuts they had previously supported. On Tuesday, Reid told reporters that “these are our programs, so we’ll pass this.”

Other lawmakers on that side of the aisle were left fuming at the GOP. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, accused Republicans of hypocrisy for opposing higher taxes for the wealthy but then turning around and prioritizing deficit reduction.

“When it came to giving huge tax breaks to the wealthiest people in this country I didn’t hear my Republican friends say, ‘Oh gee, we can’t do that because it’s going to drive up the deficit,’” Sanders said.

“Now suddenly we have people who have great concerns about the national debt and the deficit and they intend to balance that budget on the backs of working people, the elderly, the sick, the poor, the children.”

While lawmakers used Wednesday's short-term deal to avert a shutdown at week’s end, they have merely kicked the can down the road – the next question becomes whether they can reach a long-term deal to avert a shutdown come March 18.

Reid said at a press conference after the vote that members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have been invited to meet with Vice President Biden, either on Capitol Hill or at the White House, to start discussing a long-term measure.

“In the next 24 hours there will be some meetings that will be directed by Vice President Biden,” Reid said.

“Negotiations on a long-term measure need to begin immediately,” urged Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, calling on Republicans to “sit down at the negotiating table right away.”

As an indication of how challenging that road ahead could be, the Senate’s number-two Democrat, Dick Durbin, said it would take “a superhuman effort” from all sides to reach a long-term deal.

“I don’t think we should be celebrating today,” he cautioned.

Already the war of words has started to heat up. Republicans have expressed a reluctance to negotiate until Democrats unveil a plan of their own, a stance that Reid on Wednesday called “shallow” and “foolish.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar012011

Senate Dems Signal Support for House GOP's Two-Week Spending Bill

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- All that talk about a government shutdown can be put on hold for another two weeks.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters Tuesday that the Senate – with some Democrats on board – will pass the two-week spending bill that is set to emerge from the GOP-controlled House.

As his spokesman did last Friday, Reid contended that the GOP’s stopgap measure that would cut $4 billion in spending is a modified version of what Democrats have wanted all along since it is full of cuts they had already supported.

If both chambers of Congress had failed to agree on an extension by the end of Friday, funding would've run out and the government would've shut down. But despite fears in recent weeks that a shutdown could occur, that no longer appears to be a possibility.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb282011

Government Shutdown: Would Anyone Lose Their Job?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A government shutdown means many things, but one thing it does not mean is that the government would shut down.

As Congress hurtles toward a breaking point in the clash over government spending, funding for the federal government is scheduled to expire on Friday. That's unless Republicans and Democrats in Congress can reach an agreement that's acceptable to the White House before then.

The likeliest short-term scenario would involve another temporary spending measure, to allow more time for final negotiations. Republicans have put forward a plan to shave $4 billion in spending in a two-week temporary extension, while Democrats in the Senate are discussing a similar level of cuts spread over a four-week period.

But another temporary extension would only delay the clash that could bring a temporary shutdown. Congress hasn't come this close to failing to approve government spending since the standoff between President Clinton and GOP congressional leaders in late 1995 and early 1996.

Federal agencies have detailed plans for how to act if the government runs out of money, though some questions remain regarding the specific impact.  Chief among them: would anyone be without a job?

The answer is yes.

Perhaps a quarter of the more than four million federal workers -- a total figure that includes the Postal Service and the armed services -- could expect to have their jobs deemed non-essential.  They wouldn't be paid during any period when funding isn't in place, and they'd be barred by law from volunteering their services if they wanted to. Large numbers of employees at agencies including the Education Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development would also be without jobs to go to.

If Congress follows past practice, affected workers would receive back pay when the standoff is over. Less likely to be made whole are government contractors who could also be affected if their services are considered non-essential by agency managers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb282011

Arizona Governor on Shutdown: 'Government Is a Necessary Evil'

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Facing an oncoming federal budget crisis, Republican governors Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Jan Brewer of Arizona both said a government shutdown would not be productive for the country.

"I think government is a necessary evil," Brewer said.  "But it's necessary to provide services, and they should be able to come to some solution.  We need to trim the budget and move on."

"We appreciate our public employees but our job as governor is to look after our taxpayers," Haley added.

Along with Brewer and Haley, two other governors -- Democrats Deval Patrick of Massachusetts and John Hickenlooper of Colorado -- joined in a round-table discussion with ABC News to discuss the possible government shutdown.

A longtime friend and supporter of President Obama, Patrick said the fiscal crisis was a "real opportunity" to learn how Americans want the government to function.

"All of us are dealing with these kinds of challenges, and trying to get our budget gaps closed," Patrick said.  "There's another way, it's about turning towards each other instead of against each other."

Haley, at 39 years old the youngest governor ever elected, praised the GOP's proposed plan for $50 million in spending cuts, but said she felt it was Obama's responsibility to listen to Republican legislators instead of forcing Republicans to listen to his plan.

"[The Republicans] are just doing what the people are asking of them," she said.

The effort to slash the federal budget could cause difficulties for Brewer and Arizona, because one of the proposed cuts would mean 685 fewer border patrol agents.  The Republican governor acknowledged that fewer border patrol agents could be a problem for all the states that share a border with Mexico.

"I believe we need as much resources as necessary to get our borders secured," Brewer said.  "I hope that will be reinstated.  We all know that Arizona is the gateway for illegal immigration, and the drug smuggling and the drug cartel. ...We're going to continue fighting the battle on our border."

Patrick repeatedly touted how Massachusetts was able to "close huge budget gaps" successfully, including in education spending, and Hickenlooper defended his proposed $300 million in spending cuts for Colorado.

"We have to balance the budget and get back on the fiscal track," Hickenlooper said.  "For one year, we're going to have to retrench with less money."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb282011

Stopgap Budget Deal May Avert Government Shutdown

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- With the federal government set to shut down on Friday without new funding, Democrats appear willing to go along with a two-week stopgap budget deal that includes $4 billion in new cuts, averting a shutdown.

In excerpts from a speech delivered Sunday night to the National Association of Religious Broadcasters in Nashville, House Speaker John Boehner said in the 2012 budget he wants to take on cuts to entitlement programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, adding a jab at the president's own 2012 budget plan.

"To not address entitlement programs, as is the case with the budget the president has put forward, would be an economic and moral failure," Boehner said.  "By acting now, we can fulfill the mission of health and retirement security for all Americans without making changes for those in or near retirement.  And we can keep the promises we have made to our children."

But first Congress needs to deal with the remainder of 2011.  The compromise bill proposed by House Republicans includes $1.2 billion in spending cuts to education, transportation and other programs President Obama proposed cutting in the 2012 budget that begins in October, plus $2.7 billion in congressional earmarks -- spending directed to special projects, often in the sponsoring member's district -- that both parties have renounced.

The House is expected to vote on Tuesday.  The Senate would take up the bill after that.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Feb272011

Government Shutdown: Would Gov't Services Cease?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A government shutdown means many things -- but one thing it does not mean is that the government would shut down.

As Congress hurtles toward a breaking point in the clash over government spending, funding for the federal government is scheduled to expire on Friday. That's unless Republicans and Democrats in Congress can reach an agreement that's acceptable to the White House before then.

The likeliest short-term scenario would involve another temporary spending measure, to allow more time for final negotiations. Republicans have put forward a plan to shave $4 billion in spending in a two-week temporary extension, while Democrats in the Senate are discussing a similar level of cuts spread over a four-week period.

If funding runs out, would government services cease? No. Critical services will continue to be provided even if the stand-off continues for an extended period of time.

Soldiers at home and abroad will still be armed and fed. The Federal Aviation Administration will continue to direct air traffic.

Federal courts will remain open, with law enforcement, intelligence gathering, and border enforcement operations left intact as well. The Postal Service's employees are funded independently, so mail would be delivered as usual.

Expect, though, some quirks in dealing with the government if further funding isn't approved. You'll still be able to file your taxes, though calls to the IRS tax help line may go unanswered. Refund checks could be delayed, as tax processors are likely to be among those who are furloughed.

Still, more government functions are automated than during the last shutdown. Social Security checks and veterans' benefits would still go out, though new claims for services could be delayed if agencies follow practices from the last shutdown.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Feb262011

NGA Chair: States Are 'Fragile,' Can't Afford a 'Hiccup' in Recovery

Photo Courtesy - Office of Gov. Chris Gregoire(WASHINGTON) -- Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, chair of the National Governor’s Association, labeled states across the country “fragile” and warned Congress that a government shutdown or cuts would further undermine their economic recovery.

“We are fragile, so anything Congress does, whether it’s a shutdown or cuts, that will directly impact the states can be of considerable concern to us because we don’t need a hiccup right now in our recovery,” Gregoire said Saturday morning. “We can ill afford to have any government shutdown and cuts that will dramatically impact the states.”  

Nearly 50 governors are gathering in Washington, D.C., for a three-day National Governor’s Association Conference to discuss job creation, education and global competitiveness. They will examine ways to fix the budget gaps and to streamline state governments to increase efficiency.

“We are still faced with an unprecedented fiscal crisis, and we have to make very tough choices and decisions in our homes,” Gregoire said.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick echoed a sentiment resonating from many of the governors, saying many state economies are “recovering, not recovered.”

Saturday’s sessions were to focus on improving education and job creation, which the governors believe hold the key to emerging from the recession.

“Governors do not have the luxury of waiting for solutions to present themselves,” Gregoire said. “There’s a need for us to create jobs, to find steady employment, and a promising future for our children.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb252011

Gov't Stalemate Thaws as Dems 'Encouraged' by New GOP Proposal

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The prospect of a government shutdown next week appeared to become less likely Friday as Republicans unveiled a new short-term spending proposal that earned praise from Democrats.

The GOP’s latest proposal -- a two-week spending bill with $4 billion in cuts -- was designed to be hard for Democrats to resist because it is full of cuts they had already supported. For instance, the Republicans’ plan included $1.24 billion in cuts proposed by President Obama in his 2012 budget and about $2.7 billion in cuts to earmarks that both parties have already renounced.

“The American people want the government to stay open and they want us to cut spending,” Speaker of the House John Boehner said in a statement. “These stop-gap measures are only necessary because the Democrats who run Washington failed to pass a budget, failed to stop the spending binge that’s threatened job growth and failed to lead.”

The House will come back into session on Monday and is expected to complete debate and vote on the two-week extension on Tuesday. Boehner predicted they would pass it in short order and called on Senate Democrats to follow suit.

Judging from their response to the GOP’s plan, it’s clear Democrats are indeed warming up to it. Case in point: now they’re using words like “encouraged” and “moving closer” and “good idea.”

“We are encouraged to hear that Republicans are abandoning their demands for extreme measures like cuts to border security, cancer research and food safety inspectors and instead moving closer to Democrats’ position that we should cut government spending in a smart, responsible way that targets waste and excess while keeping our economy growing,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s spokesman Jon Summers said in a statement Friday.

In fact, Democrats argued, the GOP’s new plan is just “a modified version” of what they have been proposing all along.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb252011

Gingrich to GOP: Shut Gov’t Down If You Have To, ‘95 Wasn’t So Bad

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Contrary to the conventional wisdom that the government shutdown of 1995 helped pave the way for President Bill Clinton's re-election victory the next year with the passage of a balanced budget agreement, Newt Gingrich is arguing more than a decade-and-a-half later that the "facts are exactly the opposite."

With just days to go before lawmakers return to Washington to try to hash out an agreement to avert a federal government shutdown this year, Gingrich offered a message for Republican leaders in an Op-Ed to be published in this Sunday’s Washington Post: "Work to keep the government open," but if you have to, don't hesitate to shut it down.

In the piece, Gingrich also argues that it was Republicans -- not Democrats -- who actually fared better politically in the aftermath of the 1995 shutdown led by the former GOP House Speaker.

"This historic success was not an achievement of the Clinton administration," Gingrich writes, referring to the budget deal. "In the summer of 1995, administration officials publicly expressed doubt that our aggressive timeline for a balanced budget was even possible. Instead, the balanced budget was an outcome driven by House Republicans with limited support from skeptical Senate Republicans."

None of it would have been possible, the potential 2012 presidential candidates argues, "had Republicans not stood firm in 1995."

But Clinton emerged from the crisis looking like a leader on budget issues. His approval rating inched up, and after the bruising Republican Revolution of 1994, he went on to score a decisive victory over GOP nominee Bob Dole and Reform Party candidate Ross Perot in the 1996 presidential election.

In an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken shortly after the nearly three-week partial government shutdown ended that year, 75 percent of Americans said it had been a "bad thing" and about twice as many blamed Republicans in Congress (50 percent) as the Clinton administration (27 percent) for it. Half of Americans -- 50 percent -- approved of how President Clinton handled the situation compared to 22 percent approval for Republicans.

But in hindsight, Gingrich writes in the Post that there was actually an electoral silver lining for Republicans in 1996.

"Those who claim that the shutdown was politically disastrous for Republicans ignore the fact that our House seat losses in 1996 were in the single digits. Moreover, it was the first time in 68 years that Republicans were reelected to a House majority -- and the first time that had ever happened with a Democrat winning the presidency."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio