WASHINGTON—Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) wants the two parties to show good faith before a possible government shutdown Oct. 1 due to Congress being unable to agree on an acceptable level of government spending.
“Going from crisis to crisis to crisis, not having any stability or continuity, not knowing what is going to happen or how we’re going to deal with the deficit is really the challenge of our times,” said Murray, who is chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
Murray spoke Sept. 25, in a series on Women in Government, hosted by The Atlantic.
Murray said the Senate passed its budget—a key part of the budget process—in March, on schedule, which is a key part of the budget process. The House also passed its budget.
Normally, at that point the two houses work out their differences in conference, said Murray. However, she said some Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), objected to going to conference and would not allow Congress to work out its issues.
“We cannot allow the country to be run that way,” said Murray, adding there must be a more predictable method to resolve differences between Republicans and Democrats on ordering the government’s fiscal house.
Congress has been unable for months to reach an agreement over government spending, and a part of the Republican Party, known as the tea party wing, have taken a stance that the new federal health care law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), should not be funded. The ACA is also known as “Obamacare.”
Defunding ACA is a position that many Republicans ran for office on. It is also a position that many Democrats cannot accept, especially since the ACA is seen as President Barack Obama’s signature achievement.
Should Congress fail to reach a spending agreement prior to the new fiscal year, a majority of government workers would be furloughed. The process of shutting down, and then opening up the government is also time-consuming and costly.
Having failed to agree on a formal budget for years, the government has mostly been running on a series of continuing resolutions (CR), which are an appropriations legislation used by Congress to fund agencies if a formal agreement cannot be reached.
Passing a short-term CR is one option the government could take prior to Monday at midnight to avoid a shutdown. Congress has passed 10 CRs since 2010.
Eyes on Congress
On Sunday, Sept. 29, the House passed a stopgap measure 231–192 funding the government through Dec. 15, but its key amendment delaying for one year implementation of the ACA is likely to be unacceptable to the Senate.
“We will do our job and send this bill over, and then it’s up to the Senate to pass it and stop a government shutdown,” House Republican leaders said in a joint statement.
In a statement even before the House voted, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) declared the House bill “pointless,” and said the Senate would not accept it. On Monday, all eyes will be on the Senate, and what action it will take.
A Clean Bill
Reid has tried to pass what is known as a clean bill that would fund the government without taking anything away from the ACA. Murray also wants a clean bill.
Commenting on last week’s effort to this effect, which involved a House bill that defunded ACA long-term, she said, “The House knew when they submitted the bill, the Senate was going to take out the provision for defunding ‘Obamacare’ and send a clean bill back to the House.”
Last week it was Cruz who delayed the Senate from taking action to vote on a clean bill by speaking for 21 hours. He argued for the Senate to defund ACA.
Murray said Cruz’s actions prevented the normal way in which differences are resolved in a democracy through give-and-take negotiation.
Regarding the House, Murray said House Republicans were engaging in a “temper tantrum.”
Some of the concerns tea party Republicans have about the Affordable Care Act include businesses facing higher costs to offer health insurance to full time workers, and the mandate that individuals must buy health insurance or face penalties.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is in a difficult position in leading the House that depends on tea party member votes to pass bills. “How do you function,” Murray asked, when they came here to vote ‘no’?
She said there is only one solution: “Democrats and Republicans have got to sit down at the same table and give. It doesn’t matter whether it is five minutes before midnight on Monday or two weeks from now. That has to be done.”
Associated Press contributed to this report