Political showdown starts over federal shutdown

February 18, 2011 6:57:29 PM PST
House Speaker John Boehner is digging in. On Friday he said he won't back down, as Republicans continue to slash away at government spending. The healthcare and funding for San Francisco's Presidio went on the chopping block.

Defunding the Presidio was really a swipe at minority leader Nancy Pelosi in an effort to send a message. In fact, message sending is much of what's been happening on Capitol Hill this week.

Republicans are pushing for $60 billion in cuts to this year's spending and high on their target list is defunding health care.

"It is a travesty, it is big government, it is not controlling health care costs and it needs to be repealed," said Rep. Dennis Rehberg, R-Montana.

Republicans have put up hundreds of amendments. One of them, to cut funding for the Presidio, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, a pet project of minority leader Nancy Pelosi.

"When we say we're going to cut spending, read my lips we're going to cut spending," said Boehner.

Boehner said there will be no funding for the government without deep cuts. The current funding runs out in just two weeks and Bay Area Democrats are warning of a catastrophe.

"We're really talking about serious, serious job loses in California," said Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Creek.

"The cost of health care for these folks is going to go up through the roof," said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa.

But facts are the House cuts have little chance of getting through the Senate and if they did, the president has promised a veto. So really, the House Republicans have one option -- block any funding measure and shut down the government, which is what happened around Christmas of 1995 when Newt Gingrich went head to head with President Bill Clinton. John Boehner did a little grandstanding back then.

"And that's a little coal to put in the president's stocking," said Boehner as he dumped a shoebox of coal on the table.

But it was the Republicans who got dumped on. Voters didn't like having their social security checks held up or the national parks shut down, and they took it out on the GOP. Republicans aren't eager to see that scenario repeated and congressional Democrats know it.

"Just think, it's important for all of us to recognize that we cannot allow the government to shut down," said Pelosi.

So we are seeing Democrats warn of dire consequences and Republicans vote to cut funding for projects that play their base. ABC7's political analyst professor Bruce Cain, Ph.D., said what's likely to happen is a short term funding measure will be past before the March 4th deadline.

Cain said these are "Ways of buying more time for the two parties to negotiate an ultimate budget agreement."

Cain said that ultimate budget agreement may take a while and we'll likely get a number of short term funding resolutions, while Congress kicks this can down the road.


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