WASHINGTON — Prospects for a swift end to the 4-day-old partial government shutdown all but vanished Friday as lawmakers squabbled into the weekend and increasingly shifted their focus to a midmonth deadline for averting a threatened first-ever default.
"This isnt some damn game",said House Speaker John Boehner, as the White House and Democrats held to their position of agreeing to negotiate only after the government is reopened and the $16.7 trillion debt limit raised.
House Republicans appeared to be shifting their demands, de-emphasizing their previous insistence on defunding the health care overhaul in exchange for re-opening the government. Instead, they ramped up calls for cuts in federal benefit programs and future deficits, items that Boehner has said repeatedly will be part of any talks on debt limit legislation.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., also said the two issues were linked."We not only have a shutdown but we have the full faith and credit of our nation before us in a week or ten days," he said. Reid and other Democrats blocked numerous attempts by Sen. Ted Cruz, a leading architect of the "defund Obamacare" strategy, to approve House-passed bills reopening portions of the government.
The Texas Republican said repeatedly Obama and Democrats were to blame for the impasse. But Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., likened the Republican strategy to"smashing a piece of crockery with a hammer, gluing two or three bits back together today, a couple more tomorrow, and two or three more the day after that."
For all the rhetoric, there was no evident urgency about ending the partial shutdown before the weekend. The Republican-controlled House arranged to vote on legislation providing funds for disaster assistance, then for the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.