Congress splintered as government shutdown looms

With a U.S. government shutdown looming at the end of September, Senate and House minority leaders Harry Reid (D-NV) and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have called on Congress to pass a short-term spending bill which keeps the majority of federal agencies open past October 1.

Both Reid and Pelosi met with President Obama for an hour and a half on Thursday at the White House to talk about specifics of a temporary continuing resolution (CR) until a longer-term budget can be agreed to.

“The three of us agree that we want a short-term CR,” said Sen. Reid. “We want to make sure that the riders are off that. We want to make sure we have equal money for defense and non-defense.”

Reid also made public comments on Thursday urging Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to take up a short-term CR bill “by Thursday at the absolute latest.”

Some Democrats are worried that conservative Congressional Republicans will vote down any budget resolution which continues the funding of Planned Parenthood, which has come under public scrutiny recently for possible ethical and legal violations.

On Wednesday, McConnell said shutting the government down in order to defund the women’s health organization would be an “exercise in futility,” although according to The Hill “dozens” of House Republicans have promised to do just that.

At Wednesday night’s GOP presidential debate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called Planned Parenthood a “criminal enterprise”, and legislative efforts have already been made in both the House and Senate to cut off federal funds to the organization.

On Friday, in an attempt to weaken the possibility of another government stoppage, Sens. Michael Bennett (D-CO) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) sent a letter to Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Charles Schumer (D-NY), top Senate Rules Committee members, asking them to consider a resolution which, according to¬†The Hill, would require the Senate to “come into session at 8 a.m. everyday the government is shutdown, and if a majority of senators aren’t present, the Senate could vote to have the chamber’s sergeant-at-arms force them to come to the Senate floor.”

According to the text of the Shutdown Accountability Resolution, first introduced in March, if senators aren’t on the floor within an hour of the aforementioned vote, the sergeant-at-arms could be ordered to “arrest absent senators”.

Similarly, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) wrote a letter to House Speaker John Boehner on Friday (R-OH), signed by 79 House Democrats, asking the Republican leader to keep the House of Representatives in session 24 hours a day, everyday, until legislation is passed which avoids a shutdown on October 1.

 

[Reuters] [The Hill] [MSNBC] [CBS News] [Photo courtesy M. Scott Mahaskey/Politico]