Republicans Ready for Conference, but Still Missing Their Dance Partners

Posted October 1, 2013 at 1:05pm

Exactly 12 hours after the government shutdown began, the eight House Republicans appointed to serve on a continuing resolution conference committee staged a photo-op.

Facing a crowd of reporters and flashing cameras, the gentlemen sat on one side of a long conference table in the speaker’s suite of offices, all in their shirtsleeves to visually signal their readiness to get to work and reopen the government — and to try to point out that Democrats were not there to join them.

“As you see, there’s no one here on the other side of the table,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. “All of us are here, sitting at a table, waiting for the Senate Democrats to join us so we can resolve our differences.”

After three unsuccessful attempts to force the Senate to accept a short-term spending bill that contained different riders aimed at undermining Obamacare, the House, in the early morning hours of Tuesday, sent the other chamber a motion to go to conference — along with a CR that would delay the individual mandate’s implementation for one year and eliminate health care subsidies for those serving in the legislative and executive branches.

The Senate packed up and left after the stroke of midnight on Tuesday before the House had even voted on that measure. Senators came back at 9:30 a.m. and swiftly voted to table it, with Democrats saying there was nothing to negotiate. Senate Democratic leaders have said they will accept nothing more than a rider-free CR to resume government funding.

Republican conferees include Cantor, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan, Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers of Kentucky, Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, and Reps. John Carter of Texas, Ander Crenshaw of Florida, Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey and Tom Graves of Georgia.

House Democrats have so far declined to appoint their own conferees.

Ryan addressed criticism that House Republicans sought a conference with the Senate only in the eleventh hour before the government shutdown after resisting negotiations on a budget blueprint for six months.

“Our goal … all along is to get to a budget agreement,” Ryan said. “Most budget agreements in the past have always involved a debt limit increase. We think that’s a forcing mechanism.”

In seventeen days, the Treasury Department has said the nation will be in danger of defaulting on its debt,  and confronting that reality adds to the vast uncertainty surrounding the current government shutdown and fiscal stalemate.

There are no known plans at the moment on how lawmakers will proceed, including whether the House will try to send a different proposal back to the Senate — perhaps a “clean” CR.

The full House Republican Conference planned to meet at 1 p.m. Tuesday, where perhaps next steps will be discussed.