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“Obviously this is divided government. Divided government can be challenging,” said Rep. Sean P. Duffy, R-Wis.
Duffy wasn’t about to complain about the long hours, however. “This is our job,” he said of the weekend sessions. “This is where we need to be. ... We’re here to do what we can” to roll back the health care law while keeping the government open, he said.
And even if they haven’t succeeded in getting the president to agree to repeal his health care law, “I think it’s sinking in with the American people,” Duffy said of the party’s message.
But Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said he has a weary sense of déjà vu.
“It seems to me in the three years that I’ve been here, it feels an awful lot like ‘Groundhog Day,’” he said on the floor this week. “I was sitting in that chair presiding over this body as we were closing in on a government shutdown when I had only been here a few months.”
But some believe this go-round seems worse than before. At least in 2011, the party’s leaders were talking to each other and the White House.
Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., said he’s been stunned by the lack of bipartisan budget talks this time around.
“The thing that’s astonishing, when you look at what’s going on right now, is that there is no active negotiation by the Republican House with the Democratic president or the Democrats in Congress,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like this. ... It’s all an internal struggle on the House Republican side.”
Budget talks earlier this year between the White House and Senate Republicans eventually fell apart, and there isn’t much in the way of real discussions on anything approaching a budget deal at this point.
But Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who had his own epic tussle on the floor with Cruz over the defunding strategy, said some things are getting done, using the “Groundhog Day” analogy himself in a CNBC interview.
“It seems like we’re always on the verge of a shutdown,” he said. “On the other hand, what you’ve seen come out of this is some permanent tax policy for individuals. You’ve also seen, for the first time, two years in a row, we’ve had reduced spending.”
Corker held out hope that a deal might be reached later this year on changes to entitlement to replace some of the sequester.
“So, this is ugly to watch, and sometimes painful to participate in, but, you know, we’re clunking along. And, hopefully, over time, doing some of those things that will make our country much stronger,” he said.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., put the long hours in perspective.
“I’ve got a son in the Navy and he’s deployed and he hasn’t been home in I think about 10 weekends,” McCain said. “So, there’s a lot of people that are working a lot harder than we see.”
Emma Dumain and Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.