5:24 am - Wednesday November 4, 2015

Shutdown’s seventh day begins with political sniping

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Shutdown's seventh day begins with political sniping
Shutdown's seventh day begins with political sniping

“He knows what my phone number is, all he has to do is call.”

That was House Speaker John Boehner appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” clearly frustrated with President Barack Obama.

Boehner on Sunday stressed he just needs a “simple conversation” with the president, something that hasn’t been happening beyond a brief and unfruitful meeting with congressional leaders at the White House last week.

“The American people expect in Washington when we have a crisis like this, that the leaders will sit down and have a conversation. And I told my members the other day that there may be a back room somewhere, but there’s nobody in it,” Boehner said.

The Ohio Republican’s interview came on the same weekend the Associated Press released its wide-ranging interview with the president.

Mr. Obama told Julie Pace what he’s been saying for several days — that he’s only willing to negotiate with Republicans on health care and spending if Boehner holds a vote on a politics- and policy-free measure to fund the government.

Boehner also blasted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., as inflexible. “That’s what he’s saying, complete surrender and then we’ll talk to you,” Boehner said.

A Reid spokesman responded in a Monday statement that Boehner says “things that fly in the face of the facts or stand at odds with his past actions.”

“Americans across the country are suffering because Speaker Boehner refuses to come to grips with reality,” Reid communications director Adam Jentleson’s statement read. “Today, Speaker Boehner should stop the games and let the House vote on the Senate’s clean CR so that the entire federal government can re-open within twenty-four hours.”

The hardened lines signal there isn’t likely to be any resolution to the standoff any time soon. Without a legislative path forward, what we see play out instead is the political battle.

On Monday as the shutdown stretched into its second week, the president’s Organizing for Action re-election campaign spinoff released what officials say will be a “national cable” television ad bemoaning an “irresponsible” and “reckless” government shutdown.

The spot features GOP members of Congress appearing on television last week, including Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee proclaiming, “People are probably going to realize they can live with a lot less government.”

“The government shutdown is hurting veterans, seniors and our kids,” a female narrator says. “Now tea party Republicans are threatening an economic shutdown, refusing to pay our nation’s bills, endangering American jobs.”

It closes with a photo of House Republican leaders and an ask: “Tell them to stand up to the tea party.”

Democrats were pleased over the weekend to see this new poll, conducted of 600 voters by the left-leaning Public Policy Polling on behalf of MoveOn.org, showing the GOP is suffering thanks to the shutdown.

It found that Republicans in some of the most competitive districts are running behind generic Democratic challengers and an average approval rating for the GOP incumbents of 36 percent.

So, what’s next?

Mr. Obama told the AP he thinks that “[t]here are enough votes in the House of Representatives to make sure that the government reopens today.” (The president also asked people to be patient as the health care law rollout websites experience technical glitches.)

But Boehner made clear on ABC he has a problem with the president’s math on a continuing resolution to fund the government: “There are not votes in the House to pass a clean CR.”

He said there also aren’t enough votes to avoid a compromise from the White House on raising the nation’s debt limit set to end Oct. 17. Boehner said it’s got to be about curbing government spending.

“We’re not going to pass a clean debt limit increase,” he said. “I told the president, there’s no way we’re going to pass one. The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit. And the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us.”

Host George Stephanopoulos asked if that would hold under all circumstances.

Boehner’s reply: “We’re not going down that path. It is time to deal with America’s problems. How can you raise the debt limit and do nothing about the underlying problem?”

Democrats in the House say they have enough votes in their party and enough rebellious Republicans to use procedure to put the clean continuing resolution on the floor, if Boehner would allow it.


Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal returns to the NewsHour Monday night to highlight cases in the 2013-2014 Supreme Court term that begins Monday. The biggest case this week comes Tuesday, when the justices hear arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC, which asks whether individuals who give campaign contributions to multiple candidates and committees in an election cycle should face a cap on their donations.

The McCutcheon case is one of the most important of the term and is seen by some as a possible second act to the Citizens United ruling, which lifted independent spending regulations for corporations and groups during elections.

There isn’t yet a clear blockbuster case this term, such as the Affordable Care Act case in 2012 or same-sex marriage earlier this year. Instead, the court will face a number of potentially important cases spread across many topics. Much will come down to whether the court falls in line with past decisions or chooses to buck them, and whether the court will rule narrowly on the facts or broadly interpret law in a new way.

The term will include challenges on: Michigan’s affirmative action ban; abortions that use drugs instead of surgical procedures; prayer at government meetings; and the president’s power in making political appointments during Congressional recess.

Some big issues wait in the wings. The justices still must decide whether they will hear cases on warrantless searches of cell phones, the Affordable Care Act and religious rights, and the regulation of greenhouse gases.

The government shutdown hasn’t yet affected the Supreme Court. The Court will operate normally until Friday, with no word on what will happen if Congress doesn’t agree to government funding after that.

Also in court news, Jennifer Senior of New York Magazine published a long interview with Justice Antonin Scalia, covering everything from “Duck Dynasty” to his belief in the devil.

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