The inside track on Washington politics.
The U.S. government shutdown continues with no clear end in sight. House Republicans continued to demand that the nation’s new health-care law be delayed or repealed and Democrats — including President Obama — were refusing to give in. The shutdown has now sent some 710,000 to 770,000 employees home across the country, delayed the paychecks of another 1.3 million “essential” workers, and shuttered numerous government functions.
Check here for the latest updates on all the political jostling and practical impacts.
The Senate has adjourned for the day until noon Saturday and is expected to remain in session until 4 p.m., Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said as he wrapped up the day’s proceedings.
There were no significant talks Friday between the House and the Senate, but before adjourning, Reid presented Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) with her “Golden Gavel” award for having presided over the Senate for at least 100 hours. And the Senate also unanimously approved a measure deeming next week as National Chess Week.
Another day, another lack of a deal.
The government shutdown now wrapping up its fourth day has forced lawmakers to cancel committee hearings, play tour guide for constituents, go without their catered hot lunches and to ration precious commodities.
The scramble is on, especially at the House and Senate gyms, where trainers and attendants are on furlough, according to several lawmakers who frequent the facilities. Knowing they’d likely be temporarily out of a job within hours, House gym laundry staffers left behind about 250 cleaned and pressed towels. But lawmakers say they were mostly used up by Wednesday.
One senator, who asked not to be identified in order to candidly discuss locker room behavior, confirmed that several members are allowing their towels to air dry over locker doors.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), one of the gym’s most frequent visitors, said, “There’s no attendants, there’s no one there, but you can go in and use it if you want to. Just as you could jog outside.”
Tourists kept coming to Capitol Hill this week, even though the multimillion dollar Capitol Visitors Center is closed to the general public. But constituents lucky enough to prearrange a visit with their lawmaker are permitted access.
Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) says in a new interview with Bloomberg that Republicans have “lost” the budget debate and should move on to the debt ceiling debate.
“We’ve lost the CR battle,” Ross said. “We need to move on and take whatever we can find in the debt limit.”
Ross is one of a few Republicans who have suggested they might support the Senate-passed continuing resolution.
U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman canceled negotiations scheduled for next week in Europe because of “financial and staffing constraints” imposed by the government shut down.
In an e-mailed release, Froman’s office said that they could not bring a “full team of negotiators” to talks in Brussels next week on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and needed to postpone the meeting.
It is the second blow to U.S. trade discussions. Obama on Thursday cancelled a trip to Asia where officials hoped he could advance negotiations toward a Pacific free trade agreement.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said on the Senate floor Friday that Republicans were actually compromising when they attempted to defund Obamacare.
“It is the view of every Republican in this body, and indeed every Republican in the House, that Obamacare should be entirely and completely repealed. Nonetheless, the House started with a compromise of saying, not repealing Obamacare, but simply that it should be defunded.”
Here’s the video, which was posted by the Democratic National Committee.
One of the most high-profile effects of the shutdown has been the closure of monuments and memorials on the Mall.
Of course, a big reason so much attention has been paid to the shuttering of the World War II Memorial and other landmarks is because groups of veterans have stormed these spots anyway. A group of World War II veterans visited the memorial to that war on Tuesday, bypassing the barriers; the same day, Korean War veterans moved the barricades at the Korean War Veterans Memorial to lay a wreath. The scene repeated itself on Wednesday, with another group of veterans (again accompanied by members of Congress) entering the grounds of the World War II Memorial.
Stories about veterans storming closed memorials were quickly picked up by news outlets and spread far and wide on social media platforms.
But all closures are not created equally. The Smithsonian museums on the Mall? Those are definitely locked. Some of the parks and memorials around D.C.? Not so much.
On Friday, the fourth day of the shutdown, gates and closed signs remained but visitors weren’t paying them much heed. The Post’s Michael Ruane reports that at the World War II Memorial on Friday, visitors simply walked by the park rangers manning a gate without being stopped. The American Legion also held a news conference there, saying they want the memorial to stay open. At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, gates had been pushed aside, and the memorial was crowded with visitors.
This followed several days of similar events around the Mall and elsewhere. Children played on Wednesday inside supposedly closed parks on Capitol Hill.
Still, even though visitors are still making their way into closed memorials and strolling around the Mall, they are encountering a different problem. Some memorials may be accessible, but the bathrooms are all closed.
With the Gulf Coast expecting landfall by Tropical Storm Karen this weekend, the White House says FEMA is recalling some of its staff furloughed during the government shutdown. (CBS News)
The failed negotiations in Congress and subsequent government shutdown provided ample fodder for late-night comedians over the past week. On Background’s Nia-Malika Henderson looks back at some of the best digs at Washington dysfunction. Watch the full episode here.
From Post Politics:
Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio), an Iraq war veteran, on Friday called on Washington politicians to stop using terrorism metaphors during the current budget debate.
Speaking on the House floor, Wenstrup addressed both sides of the debate, but also focused on the White House’s comments equating Republicans to someone “with a bomb strapped to their chest.”
“I have heard references to being ‘terrorists,’ to ‘jihad’ and to having ‘bombs strapped to our chests,’” Wenstrup said. “I spent one year, 2005-2006 — perhaps the bloodiest time of the war — as an Army combat surgeon in Iraq. In this chamber, I have seen no ‘terrorists,’ no ‘jihad,’ nor any ‘bombs strapped to chests.’ If you have been to war, you would not use such rhetoric here.”
Democratic Rep. George Miller (Calif.) on Thursday accused Republicans of waging a “jihad” against Obamacare.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on Friday cited the Capitol Police’s handling of an incident Thursday in which a woman evading police was shot and killed, saying Congress needs to end the shutdown and pay the police, who are working without pay.
“They were doing their duty … and we should pay them for it,” Durbin said at a news conference with Democratic leaders.
Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) on Friday ordered city sanitation workers to empty trash cans on federal parkland, citing “a concern for the spread of vermin.”
“It is imperative that someone remove the trash in a timely fashion before garbage piles up and rodents and other vermin are attracted,” Gray said in a statement. “Because the federal government cannot step up to provide this basic service to District residents and visitors, I have authorized [the D.C. public works department] to service the litter cans for the duration of the federal shutdown.”
Gray said city crews will service only parks that are accessible to the public, such as the Mall and federal reservations such as Dupont Circle. They will not serve areas that have been barricaded by the National Park Service.
The District government has remained open during the federal shutdown, drawing on a special reserve fund while the city budget remains in limbo alongside spending for federal agencies. The reserve fund is expected to last until about Oct. 13.
— Vincent C. Gray (@mayorvincegray) October 4, 2013
At least, that’s the case at Z-Burger, which had been giving away free burgers to those who are out of work because of the shutdown.
Citing “overwhelming crowds,” Z-Burger owner Peter Tabibian said in a news release that the program would end on Thursday — four days into the partial government shutdown which has left some 800,000 employees on unpaid leave.
“I wanted to do something nice for the federal workers,” Tabibian told HuffPost. “I thought I was going to do my little part to make things a little easier.”
That little part turned out to be more jumbo-sized than he’d bargained for. “Every day we are giving away $30,000 worth of food,” he said, explaining that this amount translates to about “5-6,000 burgers” per day at his four D.C. locations. Tababian also said lines “200 deep” are burning out his employees.
“I’m sorry I can’t do it longer than Thursday. It’s going to put me out of business,” he said.
The Obama administration said it supports the House GOP’s move to allow a vote on a bill that would pay furloughed federal employees for work they would have done if the government weren’t shut down.
“The Administration appreciates that the Congress is acting promptly to move this bipartisan legislation and looks forward to the bill’s swift passage,” the Office of Management and Budget says.
It adds: “This bill alone, however, will not address the serious consequences of the funding lapse, nor will a piecemeal approach to appropriations bills.”
Asked by a reporter about the remark made by a senior administration official in Friday’s Wall Street Journal that the White House was “winning” the current budget battle, Obama replied “there’s no winning,” and “no one is winning” as long as Americans are not working.
As Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) was speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives, Rep. George Holding (R-N.C.), who was presiding over the chamber at the time, caught a bit of shut-eye. (CBS News)
House GOP leaders announced Friday that they will hold a vote Saturday on paying furloughed federal employees for time they would have worked during the shutdown — just as Congress did after the last shutdown 17 years ago.
The bill will in all likelihood pass, but will Republicans vote for it?
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), for one, isn’t saying how he would vote.
Just interviewed Sen. Ted Cruz. He refused to say if he’d support retroactive back pay for furloughed gov’t workers. #shutdown
— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) October 4, 2013
It’s not hard to see the bill running into at least some opposition among cast-iron conservatives (potentially including Cruz) who will balk at the expense and at paying federal employees for work that they didn’t actually perform. As of now, the bill has 182 co-sponsors, and just 30 of them are Republicans.
GOP leaders seem to think they have the votes — otherwise they wouldn’t schedule the vote — but there could be a significant contingent of their members that votes no.
And given that the idea of retroactive pay is undoubtedly very popular — at least broadly speaking — that could cause some problems.
Restaurants and bars have been offering food and drink specials all week to furloughed workers. Some of the deals extended early in the week have expired, while others are still ongoing. Head to the Going Out Guide to find the latest on where you can eat and drink cheaply during the shutdown.