Lawmakers play blame game

Offer no path to end impasse, avert shutdown

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With eight days left to avert a possible government shutdown, congressional leaders from both parties Sunday passed around blame and resorted to name-calling, but offered no clear path to a compromise that would allow for continued financing of government operations.

In television appearances, Republicans and Democrats accused each other of being responsible for the impasse. On the CNN program "State of the Union," Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader of the House, called her opponents "legislative arsonists."

"They're there to burn down what we should be building up in terms of investments in education and scientific research and all that it is that make our country great and competitive," she said.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Democrats in the Senate would probably use "brute political power," by trying to invoke a simple majority vote that would not rely on Republican votes, to block a bill passed by House Republicans last week that linked financing for the government to the elimination of financing for President Barack Obama's health care law, which is about to go into full effect.

Mr. Cruz on Sunday called on Republicans in the House and Senate to unite around the repeal of money for the health care law, which both sides often call Obamacare. Should a government shutdown occur, he said, it would be the fault of Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats, who have refused to negotiate over the health care law.

"We've been standing up, leading the fight to defund Obamacare," Mr. Cruz said, adding later, "I believe we should stand our ground."

Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, said Mr. Cruz's efforts were destructive and self-serving as Mr. Cruz eyes a White House campaign.

"I cannot believe that they are going to throw a tantrum and throw the American people and our economic recovery under the bus," she said.

"This is about running for president with Ted Cruz. This isn't about meaningful statesmanship," she added later.

Congress doesn't seem eager to help Mr. Obama, although there are deep divides -- both between parties and within them -- over who deserves blame.

Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., said the goal was to defund the president's health care legislation for at least one more year if not forever.

"We do have eight days to reach a resolution on this, and I propose an idea that kept the government operating and opened for an entire year while delaying and defunding Obamacare for a year so that we could work out those differences," Mr. Graves said.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose face-off with President Bill Clinton led to a government shutdown and Democratic electoral wave, said his GOP colleagues should not yield.

"This is not a dictatorship. Under our constitution, there should be a period of tension and there should be a compromise on both sides," Mr. Gingrich said.

Robert Reich, who was Mr. Clinton's labor secretary, said that works only if both parties are willing to negotiate.

"Sorry, under our constitutional system you're not allowed to risk the entire system of government to get your way," Mr. Reich said.

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The Associated Press contributed.


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