Senate Rejects House Spending Bill
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And on Capitol Hill, words of anger and frustration today over the increasing likelihood of a government shutdown. This morning in the House, members of both parties took to the floor and pointed fingers.
REPRESENTATIVE EARL BLUMENAUER: If you're serious about working together to solve problems, why don't you work together to solve problems?
REPRESENTATIVE TED POE: Where oh where has the Senate gone? Where oh where can they be? With time so short and issues so long, where oh where has the Senate gone?
REPRESENTATIVE NITA LOWEY: I say to my colleagues across the aisle: Stop trying to shut down the government of the United States of America.
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: Senate decided not to work yesterday. Well, my goodness, if there's such an emergency, where are they?
BLOCK: That was House Speaker John Boehner, and before that Democrat Nita Lowey of New York, Republican Ted Poe of Texas and Democrat Earl Blumenauer of Oregon.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Later, the Democratically controlled Senate rejected a revised budget bill sent over by the House. If passed, the measure would have delayed the healthcare law for a year. After the vote, it was the Senate's turn to lay blame.
SENATOR CLAIRE MCCASKILL: My plea today to Speaker Boehner is quit making decisions on behalf of all your members - a small group of you huddled in a back room.
SENATOR LAMAR ALEXANDER: People expect us to act like adults, work together, come to a result so we could change the healthcare law and we could keep the government going.
BLOCK: That was Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democrat Claire McCaskill of Missouri.
CORNISH: For more on where things now stand with just hours to go before the midnight deadline, we're joined by NPR's Tamara Keith on Capitol Hill.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.
CORNISH: And, Tamara - how are you?
KEITH: I'm getting tired.
CORNISH: Yeah, exactly. So, where do things stand now?
KEITH: Right now as we speak, the Senate is voting to table the amendments that the House just passed. So, the game of ping-pong continues...
CORNISH: Table meaning kind of kick them to the curb basically.
KEITH: Yeah. Table it, make it go away. They're not even taking it up for a vote. They're just voting to say no, try again. And the House will try again. House Speaker John Boehner went to the floor recently and said he doesn't want a shutdown.
BOEHNER: The American people don't want a shutdown and neither do I. I didn't come here to shut down the government. I came here to fight for a smaller, less costly and more accountable federal government.
KEITH: Now, Republicans in the House are saying it's up to the Senate. They're saying Senate Democrats now have a choice: keep the government open or close it to protect Obamacare waivers for themselves and friends. That was a tweet from Eric Cantor, the majority leader in the House. They are, at this point, doing a lot of finger-pointing.
CORNISH: And, of course, they are actually meeting this hour, House Republicans, working out a strategy for their next move. What are their options?
KEITH: They have a few options. One would be to take up and potentially pass a clean CR. That is an extension of government funding, no strings attached. That's what the minority whip, Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland, is calling for.
REPRESENTATIVE STENY HOYER: Now, it's time for the speaker and the majority leader to put the Senate's clean compromise CR on this floor and, in their words, let the House work its will.
KEITH: However, that is highly unlikely. Members of the House Republican conference are not excited about that idea. They are very angry that Harry Reid and others in the Senate aren't budging at all.
CORNISH: Tamara, in the past there have been negotiations between the White House and congressional leaders on these fiscal showdowns. Are negotiations happening tonight?
KEITH: The president called all of the leaders separately. He spoke with House Speaker John Boehner for about ten minutes. As far as I can tell from the readouts of the conversations, they basically put out their positions that have been their positions for weeks. No progress, no breakthrough, goodbye. We'll talk later.
CORNISH: So with less than three hours to go, Tamara, until this midnight deadline, at this point does it look like a shutdown is inevitable?
KEITH: It's been looking inevitable all day. It looks even more inevitable now. So the Senate is rejecting the House's offer. The House may have another offer but the Senate is saying straight up, the Democrats are saying, if you put any policy riders on it at all, we'll reject it. And the House is saying we're planning to have some policy riders.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Tamara Keith, on Capitol Hill. Tamara, thank you.
KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.