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Policy: Budgets & Deficits

Day 4: House GOP stands firm, demands Dems negotiate end of government shutdown

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House Republicans announced Friday that they would stand firm on the government shutdown and continue pressing Senate Democrats to negotiate a deal to reopen Washington while approving individual spending bills to fund critical agencies.

Republican leaders said the House majority planned in the coming days to approve bills funding the Federal Emergency Management Agency; the National Weather Service, Head Start and to ensure that government employees who are idle because of the shutdown receive back pay once they return to work. The House will be voting Friday afternoon and Saturday, with additional votes likely Monday evening.

Most public opinion polls show Republicans being blamed the most for the government shutdown. But House Republicans emerged from Friday morning's private meeting convinced that they are holding their own in the government showdown, particularly because President Obama and Senate Democrats have opposed their bills to fund veterans' programs, national parks and other popular agencies. The leadership, rank-and-file members said, told the caucus to remain resolute.

“This isn't some damn game,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters.

As the fourth day of the government shutdown progressed, neither House Republicans nor Senate Democrats have moved toward a compromise. And with the upcoming debt ceiling negotiations set to kick off, both sides are holding fast in the budget negotiations to increase their negotiating leverage in the fight over raising the nation's borrowing limit. The government will hit its $16 trillion borrowing limit Oct. 17.

To reopen the government, the House GOP is asking that Democrats join them in a conference committee to hash out differences on a short-term continuing resolution that would fund federal agencies at current levels. Republicans are pushing for some sort of change in Obamacare, and possibly other concessions. Senate Democrats, following President Obama's lead, refuse to negotiate. They continue to demand a "clean" funding bill that funds the government but leaves Obamacare untouched.

“We have to reopen government,” Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said on the Senate floor. “Their cynical strategy ... really is hollow.”

But House Republican leaders made clear Friday that they will not cave on the continuing resolution. A senior administration official was quoted anonymously in the Wall Street Journal saying that the White House was content to let the government stay closed, because Democrats are winning the debate politically. That seemed only to goad House Republicans further.

Republican sources said that it was members of the GOP leadership that talked tough during Friday's meeting, not just conservatives affiliated with the Tea Party. That should be taken as an indication, sources said, that even if it was the conservatives who pushed the caucus into this position, the leadership has picked up the baton and has no intention of backing down.

“The speaker has been doing an amazing job throughout this entire series of policies we’ve put forward,” said Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., who originally led the charge to threaten a government shutdown if Obama refused to accept a continuing resolution that defunds Obamacare. “He’s unified our conference in a way that we haven’t been unified in many, many months. This morning was another example of that.”

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David M. Drucker

Senior Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner