Dems pledge to reject GOP 'piecemeal' effort to fund parks, vets
By Carrie Dann and Michael O'Brien, NBC News
As the federal government shutdown neared the end of its first business day, Republicans in Congress were set to take up legislation to fund some of the most visible consequences of the closure.
The House readied votes on a trio of bills that would fund the operation of most national parks, the D.C. city government and the Veterans Affairs department's efforts to clear a backlog of claims.
But Democrats rejected the plan, holding to their demand that Republicans relent and pass the six-week extension of government spending sent to them by the Senate.
"These piecemeal efforts are not serious, and they are no way to run a government," White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said, adding "The President and the Senate have been clear that they won't accept this kind of game-playing, and if these bills were to come to the President's desk he would veto them."With the federal government out of money and out of time, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., third from left, meets with House Republican conferees as the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate remain at an impasse, neither side backing down over Obamacare, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called the Republican effort a "wacky idea" that would simply "cherry-pick some of the few parts of government that they like."
"First, we need to end the government shutdown, and then Democrats are happy to agree on funding specific items," Reid said.
"People shouldn't have to choose between help for our veterans and cancer research," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., added.
Earlier, President Barack Obama continued to place blame for the shutdown squarely on the GOP.
"This Republican shutdown did not have to happen. But I want every American to understand why it did happen," Obama said during remarks in the Rose Garden. "They've shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans."
The pressure on the GOP prompted House Republicans to turn to their latest strategy, in which the House would vote later Tuesday to reinstate funding for some of the most visible consequences of the shutdown. (A GOP leadership aide in the House said Republicans were "inspired" by a well-publicized incident earlier Tuesday in which World War II veterans, flown to Washington as part of the "Honor Flight" program, ignored the fact that the World War II Memorial on the National Mall was technically closed.)
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President Barack Obama reacts to Tuesday's government shutdown while speaking at the White House.
On Tuesday, Obama scolded the GOP for its focus on his signature domestic achievement, urging Congress to take up a simple continuation of government spending or risk the economic fallout that would come as a result.
"This is only going to happen when Republicans realize they don't get to hold the economy hostage over ideological demands," Obama said. "It's all about rolling back the Affordable Care Act. This, more than anything else, seems to be what the Republican Party stands for these days."
Complicating matters for Obama, his Democratic allies and Republican adversaries in Congress is that they must now venture onto uncertain political terrain, given that this shutdown is the first one in 17 years.Members of the US Park Service close the Lincoln memorial on the National Mall October 1, 2013 in Washington, DC.The United States lurched into a dreaded government shutdown today for the first time in 17 years, after Congress failed to end a bitter budget row after hours of dizzying brinkmanship. AFP PHOTO / Brendan SMIALOWSKIBRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images
The shutdown itself came to pass following a flurry of activity late Monday, which ended after Democrats rejected an 11th-hour attempt by Republicans to convene a “conference” committee – the formal process of resolving differences between House and Senate legislation – after their repeated attempts to both fund government and undo either part or all of Obamacare were rejected by the Democratic Senate.
On Tuesday, Reid said that Democrats would be happy to engage in a conference committee – but only after Republicans relented, and passed the extension of government spending through mid-November favored by Democrats.
“We will not go to conference with a gun to our head,” Reid said late Monday on the Senate floor.
But it was up to lawmakers to break their stalemate over funding the government, and the path toward an agreement to re-open the federal government was anything but clear on Tuesday morning.
Some Republicans started to voice support for a "clean" extension of spending along the lines of the legislation favored by Obama and Democrats. Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., whose district benefits from government spending, tweeted that Republicans had "fought the good fight" and should agree to a clean CR. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, one of the foremost proponents of the defund-Obamacare effort, floated the idea of a one-week continuation of government spending to allow time for negotiations.
Other conservatives began floating a limited series of spending bills to reinstate funding for some non-controversial (and publicly tangible) items, like ensuring the operation of national parks.
Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economyAs expected, the Senate voted down the latest House bill prolonging Congressional gridlock. A political panel joins NBC's Andrea Mitchell to discuss who is impacted by the shutdown and debates how long it will last.
But in the absence of a solution, leaders in both parties shifted to playing the blame game, as Republicans accused Democrats of having forced the shutdown, and vice versa.
And new polling released Tuesday morning suggested that blame was likely to fall unevenly upon both political parties, with Americans directing their ire more toward Republicans in Congress than Obama or Democratic lawmakers.
A Quinnipiac University poll found that Americans gave Republicans in Congress their lowest marks ever, with 74 percent disapproving of the way the GOP is handling its job. (Sixty percent of Americans said they disapproved of the way Democrats in Congress were handling their job, and 49 percent disapproved of the way Obama is handling his job.)
Moreover, the poll also found that voters broadly oppose – 72 to 22 percent – shutting down the federal government to block the implementation of Obamacare, the core element of Republicans’ strategy to date. And perhaps more ominously for the GOP, the Quinnipiac poll also found that Democrats enjoyed their strongest showing over Republicans in the generic congressional ballot, a key barometer of national sentiment heading into the midterm elections, since 2009.
If elections for the House were being held today, the poll found, 43 percent of voters would prefer to elect a Democratic candidate, versus 43 percent who would elect a Republican.