House of Representatives

Obama dares Boehner to pass clean CR, turns over negotiations to Reid

The finger-pointing continues as Congress enters the eighth day of the government shutdown and there doesn’t seem to be a resolution in sight.

Tuesday began with President Barack Obama daring House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to pass a clean Continuing Resolution (CR). Boehner has insisted that such a measure can’t pass the House, but President Obama wants the Ohio Republican to “prove it.” Yes, folks, Washington is apparently governing by double-dog dares.

The Washington Post noted yesterday that are enough moderate Republicans willing to join Democrats to pass a clean CR. But that’s questionable. While there may be enough House Republicans unhappy about the stalemate, they’ve rejected a procedural trick by Democrats to bring the measure that President Obama wants to the floor.

The interesting aspect in all of this is that President Obama, despite all of his rhetoric, has distanced himself from the CR and debt ceiling debate. The Hill noted yesterday that the White House is now deferring to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), putting him in charge of negotiations with House leadership. For his part, Reid is has been just as unwilling to move from his position as the White House.

BREAKING: Shots fired at the U.S. Capitol

 Gunshots at the Capitol

Editor’s note: Updates at the bottom of the post.

Details are still coming in through news outlets and people on the scene via Twitter, but U.S. Capitol Police has confirmed that shots were fired either in or near the Capitol building in Washington, DC. CSPAN reports that a Capitol police officer was injured.

The Capitol and adjacent House and Senate office buildings have been locked down. Employees in the House received this “shelter in place” e-mail urging them to stay inside their offices or to seek shelter at the nearest available location:

SHELTER IN PLACE. Gunshots have been reported on Capitol Hill requiring all occupants in all House Office Buildings to shelter in place.  Close, lock and stay away from external doors and windows.  Take annunciators, Go Kits and escape hoods; and move to the innermost part of the office away from external doors or windows.  If you are not in your office, take shelter in the nearest office, check in with your OEC and wait for USCP to clear the incident.  No one will be permitted to enter or exit the building until directed by USCP. All staff should monitor the situation. Further information will be provided as it becomes available.

Stay tuned for updates.

[2:53pm] Hill staffers have been sent a second email: “The United States Capitol Police are continuing to investigate the police activity. All occupants are directed to shelter in place until further notice. Additional information will be provided as available.”

[2:55pm] Reports are that the gun shots came from the direction of the Rayburn House Office Building, perhaps near the United States Botanical Gardens, which is adjacent to the United States Capitol building.

Harry Reid puts his foot in his mouth over cancer funding for kids

Harry Reid:

The House of Representatives has proposed a measure that would fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which grants money for cancer research, among other things. Senate Democrats, of course, oppose these piecemeal offerings, again demanding that the House pass the so-called “clean” Continuing Resolution demanded by the White House.

But when asked by CNN reporter Dana Bash about his opposition to the funding bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) gave a very telling answer, which showed once again that Democrats are using the government shutdown to try to gain a political advantage over Republicans.

“You all talked about children with cancer unable to go to clinical trials. The House is presumably going to pass a bill that funds at least the NIH,” noted Bash during a press conference with Senate Democratic leaders, before the House pass the funding measure. “Given what you’ve said, will you at least pass that? And if not, aren’t you playing the same political games that Republicans are?”

“Listen, Sen. Durbin explained that very well, and he did it here, did it on the floor earlier, as did Sen. Schumer. What right did they have to pick and choose what part of government is going to be funded? It’s obvious what’s going on here,” Reid told Bash.

House Democrats kill spending bills to keep open national parks, Veterans Affairs

Tuesday, the first day of the government shutdown, started out with Senate rejecting a proposal from the House of Representatives to enter into a conference committee to discuss differences between the two chambers on the Continuing Resolution (CR).

House-appointed conferees held a photo op in which they sat at the table across from empty chairs where their Senate counterparts would be sitting if they had agreed to negotiate. “We sit ready to negotiate with the Senate. #FairnessForAll,” tweeted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), attaching the photo below.

 Majority Leader Eric Cantor -- (@GOPLeader)

House Republicans decided on another round of action to work through disagreements on ObamaCare by bringing up stop-gap spending measures that would end the disruption of certain parts of the federal government.

The House went into session early yesterday evening, planning to take up three separate spending measures to fund the National Park Service, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the District of Columbia, which is under the purview of Congress.

House Democrats chided Republicans for not passing a so-called “clean” CR before the government shutdown and overwhelmingly opposed the measures, leading to their defeat.

Barring a last minute deal, the government shuts down tonight

Barack Obama

The stage has been set for a showdown on ObamaCare, as the House of Representatives passed amendments to the Senate’s version of the Continuing Resolution (CR) to delay ObamaCare for one year and repeal the law’s medical device tax.

In a rare weekend session, the House debated and passed a CR that would fund the government until mid-December. House Democrats decried the amendments for the measure, accusing their Republican counterparts of wanting to shutdown the federal government. House Republicans, however, insisted that this is was a compromise CR, citing the Obama Administration’s delays of various provisions of the law and bipartisan support for repealing the medical device tax.

Throughout the course of the debate, House Republicans noted that the White House has been eager to talk to Iran, but refused to negotiate a compromise on government funding with them.

Here’s a look at the changes made to the CR by the House.

Senate passes stop-gap spending measure, funds ObamaCare

 David Freddoso via Twitter (@Freddoso)

The United States Senate approved a cloture motion cloture to end debate on the Continuing Resolution, allowing Majority Leader Harry Reid to offer an amendment to strike the language that would defund ObamaCare from the measure.

In a 79 to 19 vote, the Senate ended debate on the Continuing Resolution (CR), with 25 Republicans joining all 54 Democrats (including two Independents who caucus with the majority) in advancing the measure. Just 19 Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), voted against the cloture motion.

A conservative news outlet reported on Thursday that as many as 30 Senate Republicans would vote with Cruz, who spoke for over 21 hours early this week against ObamaCare. Some observed that Senate Republicans were waiting for Reid to get 60 votes before they voted with Cruz.

Shortly after ending debate, a motion to wave points of order concerning the budget passed by a vote of 68 to 30. This was necessary because the CR violated the spending limits set in the Budget Control Act of 2011, appropriating roughly $20 billion more than the law allows.

Senate likely to strip language to defund ObamaCare

A procedural strategy being looked at by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would strike the language to defund ObamaCare out of the Continuing Resolution (CR), according to a report from The Hill:

Reid’s first move would be to schedule a vote to end debate on proceeding to the House continuing resolution. This would require 60 votes. Republican senators would vote to proceed to the bill because it would including the language to defund ObamaCare.

Then he would fill the amendment tree, defining what amendments could be considered in relation to the House legislation.

Reid would be sure that one of the pending amendments is a so-called “amendment to strike,” which would allow him schedule a future vote on stripping the language defunding ObamaCare and prioritizing debt payments.

Then Reid would schedule a vote to end debate on the House continuing resolution and proceed to final passage. This vote also requires 60 votes.
After this second cloture vote has passed, the pending amendments can be approved with a simple majority vote. At this point, Reid could strike the language defunding ObamaCare and prioritizing debt payments without having to rely on Republican votes. He could strike the language with Democratic votes alone.

House Republicans warming up to Internet sales tax

Bob Goodlatte

After sitting on the Internet sales tax since in passed the Senate in May, House Republicans may be ready to move forward on the issue in the coming weeks, despite public opposition, as they will draft their own measure to enact what is unquestionably a tax increase:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) is expected to release his own set of principles on the issue in the next week or two, according to sources who are closely watching the legislation.

The principles are a sign of fresh momentum for online sales tax legislation after Goodlatte and other top Republicans in the House — including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — voiced deep skepticism about the Senate-passed Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA).

Goodlatte could have chosen to bury the bill, but his decision to craft the principles shows he is serious about moving some version of the legislation forward.

The principles are expected to be broad policy statements with positions such as maintaining a simple system and not burdening businesses.

The Senate version of the Internet sales tax — the so-called “Marketplace Fairness Act” — would have impose an enormous regulatory burden on small businesses, making them tax collectors for more than 9,600 jurisdictions. The measure would also lead to higher prices for consumers.

Republican stop-gap spending measure gains more co-sponsors

Editor’s note: Rep. Tom Graves has announced seven additional co-sponsors to his proposed spending measure, according to a post on his Facebook page. This brings the total to 66 co-sponsors.

Just days after introducing a measure to delay and defund ObamaCare for the upcoming fiscal year, Rep. Tom Graves’ office announced more support from House Republicans for his proposal.

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) were forced to delay a vote last week on a Continuing Resolution that conservative members of the Republican conference said would fund ObamaCare. Congress must pass and President Obama must sign a stop-gap spending measure by the end of the month, when the current fiscal year ends, to avoid a government shutdown.

Graves, a Republican from Georgia, introduced the Stability, Security and Fairness Resolution on Thursday. This proposal, an alternative to the strategy pushed by House Republican leaders, would fund the federal government a post-sequester levels, with the exception of defense and national security. More importantly, this measure would directly take on ObamaCare, pushing back the law until 2015.

“[O]ur plan will achieve fairness for every American by fully delaying and defunding Obamacare until 2015,” said Graves in a press release last week. “This approach builds upon the Obama Administration’s policy of delaying portions of Obamacare and relieves taxpayers of the burden of funding a program that is not being implemented.”

Americans oppose raising the debt ceiling

debt ceiling

Though most members of Congress are focused on funding the federal government for another year, there is another battle on the horizon — raising the federal debt ceiling, which will be reached mid-next month.

House Republicans want some sort of a trade off from the White House to raise the debt ceiling, currently at $16.7 trillion, either further spending cuts or concessions on ObamaCare, and are tossing around the idea of holding a clean vote on the measure to show that there isn’t support for it inside the chamber. The White House, however, isn’t interested in having a debate on raising the debt ceiling.

Disagreement on how to approach the issue could lead to a stalemate similar to what the country saw in 2011 when Congress passed the Budget Control Act, a compromise between the Congress and the White House that led to the sequester.

But two new polls show that Americans are opposed to raising the debt ceiling.

NBC News and the Wall Street Journal released a poll at the end of last week showing that a plurality of Americans oppose raising the debt limit, at 44/22.

Though opposition is strong, NBC News notes that President Obama will be able to frame the debate over the issue, giving him an advantage over House Republicans who have frequently been unable to frame a coherent message.

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