GOP Lawmakers Heckled at Outdoor Press Conference
On day two of the government shutdown, House Republicans gathered on the West Front Terrace of the Capitol to urge Democrats to support their latest strategy to fund the government.
But the news conference was disrupted by protesters who heckled lawmakers over the lapse in essential services and the furloughs of federal workers because of Congress’ failure to pass a continuing resolution.
“Pass the budget! Let us work!” they shouted.
Approximately 20 protesters, who held signs asking for the government to be reopened, chanted loudly behind lawmakers for the entire news conference. Reporters could still hear members speaking over the din, but the protesters was disruptive enough to prompt House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to acknowledge them.
“I hear the folks who are here behind us,” the Virginia Republican said, “and I’m as frustrated as they are.”
Despite the protest, Republicans urged Democrats to support the GOP’s strategy of bringing mini-CRs to the floor to restart various functions of the government.
Republicans also criticized Democrats for voting against the nation’s veterans. They expressed concern about the fact that veterans had been temporarily blocked from visiting the National World War II Memorial. On Tuesday, visiting WW II veterans stormed the shutdown barricades with help from their friendly Republican congressmen.
“I’m proud that the men who faced down the bayonets of the Japanese, who faced down the machine guns of the Germans, were not deterred by the bike racks of the Park Police,” said freshmen Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C.
Democrats, of course, want a vote on a “clean” continuing resolution that funds the government at sequester levels, sans policy riders that defund or delay Obamacare. And they aren’t inclined to support the mini-CRs.
During a news conference held at the same time as the Repblican gathering, several dozen rank-and-file Democrats gathered behind party leadership on the East Front Steps to announce they were formalizing their plea to Speaker John A. Boehner to allow a vote on a clean CR via a letter addressed to the Ohio Republican.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has begin to circulate the letter for signatures, soliciting Democrats as well as the growing number of Republicans who have begun to signal their willingness to support a short-term spending measure at sequester levels.
“Put your pen where our promises are. Sign this letter to your speaker,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel, D-N.Y., called out to Republicans.
Israel echoed what other Democrats have said, that there is enough support for a rider-free CR if only Boehner would call a vote. He even quantified it, saying that Democrats only need 10 percent of House Republicans to come forward in order to push the measure over the finish line.
“Vote! Vote! Vote! Vote!” the highly energized, if somewhat uncoordinated, Democrats chanted.
On Wednesday evening, the House will vote on bills to fund the National Institutes of Health, the National Guard, national parks and museums and the operations of the District of Columbia.
The latter two bills, plus one to continue disbursement of veterans’ benefits, were brought up Tuesday under an expedited floor procedure that required a two-thirds majority vote for passage. Republicans plan to vote again on the veterans bill Thursday.
Democrats by and large voted “no” in protest of the GOP “cherry-picking” strategy that they called a “ploy” and a “sham,” and the bills failed to pass the necessary two-thirds vote threshold. Republicans are trying again, bringing both bills back to the floor under a rule that requires only a simple majority for passage.
The Democrats who control the Senate have also said they would not put the measures on the floor, and the White House has issued a veto threat.