Leading U.S. House Democrat sees tough fight over government shutdown

WASHINGTON Tue Sep 17, 2013 1:30pm EDT

U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD) speaks to the 2013 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) convention in Orlando, Florida July 15, 2013. REUTERS/David Manning

U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD) speaks to the 2013 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) convention in Orlando, Florida July 15, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/David Manning

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives predicted on Tuesday a tough battle for averting a government shutdown on October 1, saying the atmosphere in Congress is worse than it was in 1995-96 when a similar funding impasse closed federal agencies.

"I think we're going to have a fight," Representative Steny Hoyer told reporters, adding that 18 years ago there were significantly more moderate Republicans willing to seek compromises with Democrats and still there were shutdowns.

Now, Hoyer said, Republicans "terrified of the Tea Party," are hurting prospects for a deal on government spending.

House Republicans backed by the smaller-government Tea Party movement want to use the spending bill and upcoming legislation to raise U.S. borrowing authority as battlegrounds for both paring back the size of government and stopping or delaying a new national healthcare law.

Unless the Republican-controlled House, Democratic-controlled Senate and President Barack Obama reach an agreement on funding levels for Congress in the fiscal year starting October 1, most government activities will grind to a halt for lack of money.

For now, leaders have been working on a temporary funding bill to avert government shutdowns and give them more time to figure out a deal for the full fiscal year, which ends September 30, 2014.

The budget fight has become more complicated as House Republicans insist on coupling a temporary spending bill with efforts to either repeal or delay "Obamacare," which aims to expand health coverage to uninsured Americans.

House Republican leadership aides say they are still trying to figure out how to get a spending bill passed in coming days given the disagreements within their own party on tactics.

Hoyer laid down a tough marker, however, saying that he would vote against a stopgap spending bill - even one without attacks on Obamacare - if that measure aimed to spend only $988 billion for the full fiscal year.

"$1.058 billion I think is the right number," Hoyer said, explaining that it would fund government at the levels called for in a 2011 budget law, but without the additional across-the-board spending cuts that began earlier this year.

Many Republicans want to maintain the tougher deficit-reduction discipline that the automatic spending cuts provide and they argue that Obamacare, over the long-run, will hurt the economy and add to budget deficits.

Hoyer said that a "big, comprehensive" deal is needed to replace those across-the-board cuts that even Republicans like House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers have criticized as "unrealistic and ill-conceived."

A large deal sought by Democrats would have a mix of spending cuts, tax increases and reforms to programs like Social Security and Medicare. But it has been elusive and there has been no sign of one coming together anytime soon.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday estimated that if the growth in long-term government healthcare and retirement costs are not curbed, U.S. budget deficits will nearly double as a percentage of economic output between 2023 and 2038.

Instead of passing a short-term bill to fund the government, one that possibly extends for only several weeks, Hoyer urged settling full-year funding by September 30.

(Reporting By Richard Cowan and Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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Comments (3)
prolibertate wrote:
let this illegitimate unconstitutional gov’t shut down – and stay down. i for one certainly won’t miss them! When was the last time they did their constitutionally-mandated tasks for us vs. followed their whims and lobbyists wishes against us? like the world will suffer without CIA regime changes? or without the NSA spying? Or the senseless wars and drone killings? Our parasite states like Israel might wither but so what?

Sep 17, 2013 2:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
willich6 wrote:
After that incomprehensible rant, let’s try to reach an intelligent solution; it’s called compromise.. The Dems will not get $1.058T, no matter how many ‘red lines’ they threaten..
The Repubs will not get Obamacare unfunded; not going to happen.. Now that that’s been decided, let’s reach a spending resolution that efficiently funds the government and protects sequester savings.. A middle ground…
Most voters, myself included, are tired of partisan politics from both sides of the aisle; time to grow up children…

Sep 17, 2013 5:13pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
CountryPride wrote:
I for one welcome a government shutdown. This tyrannical government is out of control and needs to be cut off from the US taxpayer. This tyrannical government under the dictator Obama has taken us from $10.2 Trillion in national debt to $17 Trillion with no end in sight. Do we really need to keep funding their warmongering, NSA spying, IRS targeting, illegal immigrant loving police State? Shut it down!

Sep 18, 2013 3:29am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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