Boehner blocks Dem efforts to bring up clean continuing resolution for a vote

Sunday marked day 13 of the government shutdown as Republican House Speaker John Boehner continued to block efforts to allow a vote on a “clean” continuing resolution to re-open the government.

“We are ready to vote. Let us vote. Let America work,” said Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-California).

During his appearance a week ago on ABC News’s This Week, Boehner claimed that “there are not the votes in the House to pass a clean CR.”

However, Democrats have repeatedly pointed out that at least 195 Democrats and 21 Republicans have publicly expressed their willingness to vote for a clean continuing resolution to re-open the government for 6 weeks while lawmakers on both sides meet in conference to hammer out a longer-term budget deal. (The Senate-approved CR could pass with a simple majority of 216 votes in the House.)

“The fact that right now there are votes, I believe, to go ahead and take this drama off the table should at least be tested. Speaker Boehner keeps on saying he doesn’t have the votes for it, and what I’ve said is put it on the floor and see what happens and at a minimum let every member of Congress be on the record. Let them vote to keep the government open or not, and they can determine where they stand and defend that vote to their constituencies,” said President Barack Obama.

Although Boehner tried to blame the shutdown on Obama’s refusal to negotiate, Becerra reminded reporters that Republicans have repeatedly rebuffed Democrats’ efforts to meet in conference to negotiate the budget since April. House Republicans waited until an hour or two before the Oct. 1st deadline to pass a bill calling for a budget conference to be held, effectively triggering the government shutdown.

The Democrats’ position boils down to this: Pass a clean CR to temporarily re-open the government and pass a clean debt limit increase to prevent the U.S. from defaulting on its bills, and then negotiate on a longer-term budget agreement in conference. Obama, House and Senate Democrats have indicated that no topic is off the table in the negotiations, even difficult ones like reforms to Social Security and Medicare.

House Republicans, however, have repeatedly moved the goal post, so-to-speak, throughout this year’s budget negotiations, giving Democrats cause to be highly skeptical.

One glaring example is Boehner’s admission that he reneged on his offer to pass a clean continuing resolution if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid agreed to a budget figure that is $70 billion below what the Democrats wanted. Although Senate Democrats did approve Boehner’s budget number in the clean continuing resolution, House Republicans repeatedly attached amendments to the CR that would de-fund Obamacare or delay the health care law’s implementation for a year or repeal the Medical Device Tax or impose restrictions on federal employees’ use of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges.

Despite his public acknowledgment shortly after the 2012 elections that if Republicans were to “put Obamacare in the CR and send it over to the Senate, we were risking shutting down the government”, Boehner tried to justify his about-face by claiming that Republicans had to take a “stand” against the 2009 health care reform law.

“I and my members decided the threat of Obamacare and what was happening was so important that it was time for us to take a stand,” Boehner told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos.

Boehner has insisted that Democrats must agree to concessions before House Republicans will approve a temporary continuing resolution to re-open the government in the short-term. In effect, Boehner’s position on the federal budget boils down to this: Keep the government closed while lawmakers negotiate in conference to approve a short-term continuing resolution.

House Democrats have called on Boehner to “stop the game playing”, and Becerra questioned why Democrats should now trust the speaker negotiate “with a gun at your head” given Boehner’s recent history of breaking agreements.

“Speaker Boehner, you know you have the votes to pass a clean bill, which you had agreed to put on the floor when you had your negotiations with Majority Leader Harry Reid in the Senate. You backed away from that. How can we trust you when you’re not willing to abide by your own negotiated agreement?” said Becerra. “We’re asking our Republican colleagues to accept yes for an answer because we’re willing to take their budget number to re-open the government…We hope that finally there will be some sanity that prevails in the House of Representatives and Republican Speaker John Boehner will for once allow Republicans and Democrats alike to vote on a clean budget that will allow the U.S. government to get back to work.”

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