October 5, 2013

Both sides see big picture in shutdown

But Democrats and Republicans view what’s at stake differently.

By Paul Kane And Josh Hicks
The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

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Despite the federal government shutdown that went into effect at midnight Monday, a few tourists still came to Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington to look at the White House on Tuesday.

Washington Post photo

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Despite the heated talk about gutting the health-care law, Republicans have been quietly trying to coalesce around a set of goals that could win support from Democrats in a bipartisan pact that would resolve the annual spending bills and increase the debt ceiling. In exchange for lifting the debt ceiling, the possibilities floated include smaller cuts to the health law, including repeal of a tax on medical devices that funds a portion of the law but is unpopular even among many Democrats. Also, Republicans might push for a repeal of a medical advisory board that conservative critics have called a “death panel.”

Most likely, Republicans want to focus on reforms to entitlements, including a change in how the inflation index is measured for adjustments to Social Security benefits, and some other tweaks to mandatory spending. If those were adopted, Republican advisers said, it would pave the way for relief from the automatic cuts imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act.

All of this could be accompanied by vague language calling for the tax-writing committees in Congress to engage in a rewrite of the tax code.

After initial fears that Boehner was restarting talks of a “grand bargain,” most Republicans left a Friday morning Republican huddle understanding that their leaders were trying to merge two big issues into one solution.

But Democrats are adamant that they will not take up such a broad agenda in the days ahead, heightening the chances of a prolonged shutdown as well as a default.

Obama, visiting a Taylor Gourmet sandwich shop for lunch near the White House with Vice President Joe Biden, said the shutdown could end in 30 minutes if Boehner would approve the Senate-passed funding bill, which has no restrictions to the health law. He also dismissed a background quote in The Wall Street Journal attributed to a senior White House official that Democrats were “winning” the showdown.

“As long as they’re off the job, nobody’s winning, and that’s the point,” Obama said referring to furloughed federal workers. “We should get this over with as soon as possible.”

Reid continued his personal feud with Boehner, whom he accused of going back on his word that the House would avert a shutdown by passing a stopgap funding bill that would pass the Senate. Instead, the Democratic leader said Boehner has given in to his right flank out of fear that passing legislation with Democratic votes would jeopardize his hold on the speaker’s gavel.

“What is more important, our country or a position of leadership?” Reid asked.

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