Republican leaders in Washington are reassuring the public no threat to shut down the federal government is looming--even though the GOP-led House delivered a surprising vote to reject a short-term continuing resolution to continue funding government operations.
"Listen. There's no threat of government shutdown," House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters Thursday following the House's 195-230 vote Wednesday night the continuing resolution to keep funding the government beyond Sept. 30--the end of the current fiscal year.
Both Democrats and Republicans voted against the bill. Many Democrats objected to the spending cuts that Republicans included in the resolution to offset increased FEMA funding pushed by Democrats. Democratic opponents are hoping to get a revised version of the legislation that contains more money for disaster aid.
Meanwhile, 48 conservative Republicans also broke with their party to vote down the resolution calling for deeper spending cuts.
The resolution's failure reflects especially poorly on GOP House leaders such as Boehner, who have struggled to rally tea party conservatives during this spring's government shutdown fight and the ensuing battle last month over the debt ceiling.
The resolution's failure revives fears of an imminent shutdown that many thought had been put to rest following the shutdown and debt ceiling battles. This time, Democrats are the ones stoking that fear--calculating that it could provide them with political capital in the upcoming election season.
"The tea-party-driven House of Representatives has been so unreasonable in the past, I don't know why they should suddenly be reasonable," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters Tuesday, warning that Congress may not be able to avert a shutdown.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) this week accused Reid of playing politics by attaching billions in disaster aid to the stopgap funding measure.
"It'll be on leader Reid's shoulders because he's the one playing politics with it," Cantor said Tuesday. "No one wants to stand in the way of disaster money . . . . There is nothing else besides politics that is going on with that move."
Boehner repeated that charge of "playing politics" Thursday during his briefing with reporters. "I understood what the risk was yesterday. But why not put the bill on the floor and let the members speak?" Boehner asked, noting that he favors allowing the legislative process to play out--and reiterating his belief that the Democrats are not negotiating in faith.
Cantor and other Republicans such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also rejected talk of a shutdown in the wake of Wednesday's vote."There is not going to be a shutdown," Cantor told reporters following the vote. "Everybody needs to relax."
Boehner said Thursday that leadership will meet with members and "present some options."
One week remains until the Sept. 30 deadline--but many House members are scheduled to be out of session next week for Rosh Hashanah. Reid has already stated his caucus will be willing to keep members in Washington if congressional leaders fail to strike a deal.
But Reid struck a more conciliatory tone Thursday, telling reporters: "I'm cautiously optimistic--we're going to be okay." He added, "Magic occurs on Thursday night."