Democrats, Republicans spar over possibility of government shutdown
Updated: 5:00 p.m.
Several House Republicans on Friday pushed back against claims by Democrats that the GOP is open to shutting down the federal government as lawmakers scramble to reach a compromise on a spending resolution ahead of a March 4 deadline.
"Nobody's talking about a government shutdown; nobody wants a government shutdown; leadership does not want a government shutdown," said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who chairs a House Appropriations subcommittee on Interior and the Environment.
Simpson, who told reporters on Thursday that a government shutdown was within the realm of possibility, reiterated Friday that "anything's possible." But he emphasized to reporters that "without a doubt, leadership does not want a government shutdown, and I don't know anybody who's talking about that as the outcome that they desire."
Florida Republican Rep. Allen West, a conservative star of the new freshman class who was invited to give the keynote speech at this week's Conservative Political Action Conference, also dismissed the idea of a shutdown.
"The government's not going to shut down, and I think one of the things we've got to look at is, the president is the CEO of this corporation called the United States of America," West told reporters off the House floor Friday afternoon. "This is the people's House. This is for their voice."
South Carolina Republican Rep. Tim Scott, who is also a member of the leadership, declined to speculate on the possibility of a shutdown, noting that "we'll have to figure that out once we get closer to it."
"Hypotheticals are hard to answer, so I try my best not to answer them," Scott told reporters. "I will simply say, we will know more as this process moves forward."
Earlier Friday, Senate Democratic leaders argued on a conference call that House Republicans as well as former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty (R), a potential White House contender, are open to the possibility of a government shutdown.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters that "it was disturbing to hear two more Republicans raise the possibility of a government shutdown in the past 24 hours." He pointed to Simpson's remarks and accused Pawlenty of "bragging" in his remarks to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday about shutting down the government in Minnesota during his tenure as governor.
"We can't afford an extreme step like Pawlenty is suggesting," Reid said
In a post on National Review Online Friday afternoon, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) did not directly rule out a government shutdown but dismissed Democrats' claims as "akin to shouting fire in a crowded theater," charging that they "only serve as a distraction from the fact that Democrats aren't willing to work with us to cut spending and create jobs."
Jon Summers, a spokesperson for Reid, fired back in a statement that Cantor "can start an adult conversation right away by doing one thing: taking a government shutdown off the table." Summers also charged that "leading Republicans are still threatening to shut down the government if they don't get everything they want."
House Republicans on Friday are set to unveil the specifics of their spending proposal for the remaining seven months of the fiscal year, a plan that would cut $100 billion from President Obama's original 2011 budget request; Senate Democrats are opposed to the cuts, which they contend are too deep. Both chambers must agree to a funding resolution before March 4, the date the current resolution expires.
| February 11, 2011; 3:53 PM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency
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