'This isn't some damn game'
By Molly K. Hooper, Peter Schroeder and Bernie Becker - 10/04/13 12:12 PM ET
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) rallied Republicans Friday at a closed-door conference meeting and did not talk about a possible “grand bargain” to end standoffs over the government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling.
“This isn’t some damn game,” Boehner told reporters after the conference, angrily responding to reports that the White House thought it was winning the showdown.
Lawmakers emerging from the meeting said Boehner told his colleagues they are locked in an “epic battle” with President Obama and Democrats on the shutdown, and vowed they would not "roll over."
They said Boehner sought to hype up his conference a day after reports that the Speaker has told some members he would not allow the country to default and is willing to bring legislation to the floor that would depend on Democratic votes for passage.
Speaking to reporters, Boehner continued the recent GOP strategy of casting Republicans as the party interested in talking and blaming Democrats for stonewalling them.
Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have said that they're more than willing to discuss broader fiscal issues or changes to the president's health care law. What they won't do, top Democrats say, is hold those negotiations as part of talks to reopen the government or raise the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling.
"I reminded the president the other night that he’s famous for saying, ‘Well, you know, in a negotiation, nobody gets 100 percent of what they want,'" Boehner said. "Not going to get it in this one either."
Reports that Boehner could lean heavily on Democrats had unnerved some conservative Republicans who have often battled their Speaker, but GOP Rep. Tim Huelskamp (Kansas) left the meeting Friday saying his conference was “incredibly unified.”
Huelskamp, who lost his committee assignments for not voting with this party, said the GOP is “more unified since I've been here in 2 years and 9 months.”
There were signs that centrist and conservative Republicans were rallying to Boehner's side.
The House will vote Saturday on a bill to provide back pay to federal workers furloughed in the shutdown, a move that could help win over some centrists who have been critical of their conference's strategy.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), one of those critics, said Friday, "Now that we're going, we've got to keep with the strategy."
Republicans dismissed the suggestion that they would ever agree to Democratic demands for a "clean" government funding bill or the White House demand that the debt limit be raised without conditions.
Some GOP members said they would not consider those ideas even if they came with a commitment of future debt talks.
"Isn't that great? Give me everything I want and then I'll talk to you," said Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), dismissing that demand. "Come on. We're not that stupid."
"We're not through negotiating. We're just through negotiating with ourselves," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas).
The House will be in session Saturday to vote on new spending bills that would fund parts of the government, as well as the bill that would provide back pay to furloughed federal workers once the shutdown ends. No votes are scheduled for Sunday.
Polls have consistently shown more people blame Republicans than the White House for the shutdown, and the White House has adopted an increasingly confident stance in the showdown.
The White House reiterated Friday that it would veto piecemeal spending bills, saying it was "not a serious or responsible way to run the U.S. government."
"Instead of opening up a few government functions, the House of Representatives should re-open all of the Government," the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement.
Several Republican members accused the White House of trying to make the government shutdown as painful and visible as possible in an effort to pressure the GOP.
"As the people begin to engage with this process, they're going to see what appears to be a deliberate effort on the administration to make the partial shutdown of the government as painful for the people as they possibly can, for political bludgeoning of the Republicans," said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.).
"They're doing everything they can to make it cosmetically difficult on the American people," said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.).
Fleming added that he anticipated many GOP members would use a Sunday that is so far free of votes to stay in the District and travel to shuttered parks and monuments to try and force them open, as some did with the World War II Memorial earlier this week.
"There's … an organic sense among us that we should show up at these monuments and demand that they be opened up," he said.