Saturday agenda called for passing a bill to assure post-shutdown pay for an estimated 800,000 furloughed federal employees off the job since mid-day Tuesday, then turning off the lights on the House floor until Monday night to allow lawmakers to fly home for two days.
After issuing a string of veto threats against GOP spending bills, the White House did not object to the one to assure pay for furloughed employees. There was no doubt about the political underpinnings of the struggle. Democrats and most Republicans have assumed the GOP would be hurt by a shutdown, citing the impact of the last episode, in 1996.
But Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said of Democrats,"I don't think they've poll tested we won't negotiate. I think it's awful for them to say that over and over again. His words recorded on videotape, he said, I think if we keep saying we wanted to defund it (the new health care law), we fought for that and now we're willing to compromise on this we're going to win this, I think.
The shutdown caused the White House to scrub a presidential trip to Asia, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics delayed its customary monthly report on joblessness as impacts of the partial shutdown spread. According to warnings by the administration and Wall Street, failure to raise the debt limit, by contrast, had the potential to destablize financial markets and inflict harm on the economy quickly. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has said that unless Congress acts, the government will be unable to pay all its debts and will run the risk of default. He has urged lawmakers to act by Oct. 17.
Debt limit bills typically pass first in the House, then move to the Senate. So far, neither Boehner nor the rest of the leadership has said when they expect to draft and have a vote on one. More than a week ago, they circulated a list of items that might be included; calls for higher Medicare costs for better-off seniors, a wholesale easing of environmental regulations and approval of the Keystone Pipeline among them. Republican officials said that in a closed-door session with the rank and file during the day, the speaker renewed his long-standing commitment to seeking reforms and savings from benefit programs to help reduce federal deficits.