The only problem? The Senate was nowhere to be found.
In their third news conference outside the Senate in as many days, the group of House freshmen, joined by Reps. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) and Paul Broun (R-Ga.), delivered their message to a scrum of reporters – and a chamber that is in recess until next Monday.
The lawmakers renewed their call for the Senate to pass its own version of a government-funding bill, with one lawmaker charging that Democratic leaders are not only “rooting” for a federal shutdown, but that a shutdown is part of their “diabolical” plan to get re-elected.
“I believe in my heart that [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid, [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi and [President] Barack Obama orchestrated a plan to shut down the federal government, and you can see that is coming to fruition right now,” Broun said. “They did that in order that they could all be re-elected and put back in power and continue their socialistic, big-government policy that we saw through the first two years of the Obama administration. ... It’s a diabolical plan that they have hatched out and they’re bringing it forth right now.”
On a conference call with reporters Friday morning, Senate Democratic leaders said that they continue to negotiate with Republican leaders on which cuts to make.
Was the Republican event – which took place as budget talks between congressional leaders and the White House are ongoing, and which also happened to fall on April Fool’s Day – an instance of political gamesmanship?
Not so, said the House freshmen.
“It’s not political theater,” said Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), a freshman who has been organizing the daily news conferences. “As my colleagues articulated before, this is a much broader issue. It’s not about us. It’s about our kids. It’s about our grandkids. And we can’t continue to operate borrowing 42 cents of every dollar that we spend.”
“The fact that the Senate is not in session today reflects the degree of the lack of seriousness that they’re showing for the issue,” freshman Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) added. “When we were here voting on H.R. 1, we stayed beyond the scheduled calendar dates that we were supposed to adjourn because we felt like we had to do something and act like responsible adults, not juveniles.”
H.R. 1 is a resolution passed by the Republican-controlled House to fund the federal government through the rest of the fiscal year; the Democratic-majority Senate has rejected it, with Democrats saying its $61 billion in spending cuts was too high.
The Republicans speaking at Friday’s event included Crawford, Flores, Pence and Broun as well as freshman Reps. Marlin Stutzman (Ind.), Tom Reed (N.Y.), Martha Roby (Ala.), Jeff Denham (Calif.), Tim Griffin (Ark.), Sandy Adams (Fla.) and Bill Huizenga (Mich.).
Broun announced that he would not vote for any budget compromise that includes less than the $61 billion in cuts passed by the House last month, calling anything less than the House-passed cuts “an insult to the gravity of the problem.”
“I think it’s absolutely imperative that House Republicans keep our word to the American people,” Pence said, although he did not specify whether he would vote for a measure containing less than $61 billion in cuts.
Democratic leaders said it’s up to the Republicans to negotiate in good faith.
“We’re calling on Speaker Boehner to sit down and in good faith work with us,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said. “We’ve agreed on a number.”
Reid said on the call that any policy riders targeting the Environmental Protection Agency would be unacceptable in the final funding measure.
Asked whether a further short-term measure might be necessary if the long-term negotiations aren’t done in time, Reid replied, “the only way we would have a short-term [funding measure] would be if it were necessary to finalize the agreement on the paperwork that we’ve made.”