Democrats on Tuesday unleashed unusually savage attacks on House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) for what they termed his “sabotage” of a bipartisan Senate deal to end the government shutdown and avert a first-ever U.S. default on its debt.
The House had planned to vote tonight on a GOP alternative plan that would end Obamacare subsidies for elected officials and staff in Washington as the price for Republicans reopening the government and extending the Treasury’s borrowing authority until early February. But it was unclear whether Republicans could muster the votes to push their plan through, and leaders temporarily postponed late-evening action.
Democrats fumed that Boehner’s latest proposal for placating Tea Party conservatives in his conference would end up like previous efforts -- rejected by Senate Democrats and the White House. President Obama and Democratic leaders are insisting on a “clean” bill – unencumbered with anti-Obamacare measures – that would end the shutdown and avoid the first default in U.S. history.
House Republicans tweaked their proposal late this afternoon to drop another provision that would have postponed an unpopular sales tax on the medical devices industry for two years. But the new proposal was also unlikely to win bipartisan support, in part because it would fund federal agencies only through Dec. 15, which would create the threat of another government shutdown just before Christmas.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) left a meeting with Obama at the White House this afternoon denouncing the Speaker’s tactics as “sabotage” and a “decision to default.” She warned that House Democrats for the most part would oppose the measure. "If they [Republicans] go on the path they're on, they'll need 100 percent Republican votes, "Pelosi said.
Pelosi said that Democrats in the House stood "ready to supply the votes" on a bipartisan deal from the Senate, and that she remained "optimistic that there is a path to lift the debt ceiling in time."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-VA) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had been on the verge of closing a deal to end the two-week old shutdown and avoid a default beginning Thursday just as Boehner announced the House GOP alternative early today. Since then, Reid and McConnell have put their talks on hold, awaiting the outcome of tonight’s action on the House floor.
Democrats have been highly critical of Boehner’s actions in the past, but have been inclined to cut him some slack because of the challenges he faced in placating a large faction of Tea Party conservatives who have been uncompromising in their effort to defund or derail Obamacare. But this time is different, and many Democrats held the speaker personally to blame for a strategy that could well lead to a devastating default by the Treasury Department.
This from Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI): “I think people are just kind of amazed at Boehner’s decision. It looks like he’s just taking a very dangerous course . . . We’ll just have to wait now for the Republicans to decide in the House whether they want to continue to follow the course which is such a reckless course . What’s amazing to us is that he refuses to put [the Senate plan] up for a vote. In other words, his position that he won’t pass anything without all of his Republicans is a very, very partisan approach. He won’t do anything unless he has all of his caucus together which puts the Tea Party with a total, absolute veto on what we get done in this Congress.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) told reporters that Boehner and the House Republicans were playing with fire, and that it is crucial that Congress move quickly to forge a compromise before Thursday. “There was an assumption there was broad bipartisan support for the negotiation that had occurred over here, yet Speaker Boehner wouldn’t allow a vote over there on it,” she said.
“Here’s the deal: He’s trying to get votes on the right edge of his caucus in order to pass something. He needs to do what we’ve always done in America, and that is you get votes from the middle. When you have a moment like this and the government is divided you’ve got to have bipartisan negotiations. He wants to do this in a partisan way.”
And this from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY): “It’s just hard to believe when the stakes are so high that Boehner would be as reckless as he’s being. And he is. And I am so disappointed. I’m not disappointed in my Senate Republican colleagues. I think many of them, most of them, really understand the danger and want to help. But the House, I just don’t understand what they’re doing.”