Democrats eager to talk of government shutdown
February 3rd, 2011
03:02 PM ET
3 years ago

Democrats eager to talk of government shutdown

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Washington (CNN) - Senate Democratic leaders held a news conference Thursday to warn about the dangers of a Republican-forced government shutdown.

But as one reporter aptly noted to the leaders, it is the Democrats talking most about shutting down the government.

The reason for the Democratic talking point is politically obvious. Republicans were punished by voters when they controlled Congress in 1995 and a spending fight with a Democratic president led to a government shutdown.

And Democrats are about to enter their first intense struggle with newly empowered Republicans over spending cuts – the issue the GOP believes it was elected to address.

A so-called continuing resolution that passed late last year to keep the government running expires on March 4, and GOP leaders have made clear they want to begin to slash spending then.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, accused Republicans of "playing with fire" and making "the same exact mistake Newt Gingrich made years ago."

"Every week they keep upping the ante and proposing extreme cuts, and then they say if you don't do it our way we're going to shut the government down and hurt millions and millions of innocent people and at the same time, risk the credit rating of the United States," said Schumer.

The reality is that GOP leaders have in fact been careful not to take shutting the government down off the table, but none has said what Schumer and other leaders allege, that they are "going to shut the government down."

Still, Democratic senator after Democratic senator stood at the microphones and warned in dire terms of the catastrophic consequences of a government shutdown.

"When the government shut down last time, more than 400,000 veterans saw their pensions and disability claims delayed," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington.

"Just at the time when we have a crisis in Egypt and tension in the Middle East, in Lebanon and other places, just at a time when our troops are on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq and other places, a government shutdown, if anything, as it relates to our national security, would be a benefit to our enemies," raised Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania.

Democrats insisted that even the notion of a potential government shutdown over a spending fight will rattle an already fragile economy.

A spokesman for Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell dismissed the news conference, led in part by Schumer, as a political stunt.

"It is our hope that he [Schumer] soon realizes the only person talking about a shutdown is Senator Schumer. Most Americans and even many in his own party have come to realize that the gravity of our current fiscal problems calls for constructive dialogue that will lead to serious cuts in spending and debt. That's what Republicans are focused on. We hope Senator Schumer joins that bipartisan effort so," said Don Stewart, spokesman for McConnell.

So, is there middle ground on the issue of spending cuts?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Democrats realize there has to be some "long-term austerity here in the United States...we're not burying our heads on the sand, we realize we're going to have to do some things, but we're not willing to play Russian roulette."

But after the news conference ended and senators put away their talking points, Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, admitted to reporters that Democrats do have to face the fact that spending cuts will be necessary.

"I think we're going to end this year with some spending cuts. Let's do it in a sensible fashion so we don't kill the recovery and we don't stop the basic services of government," said Durbin.


Filed under: Congress • Democrats
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. GOP = Greed Over People

    I do not care if the GOP keeps blatherin' on about shutting down the government, that is a domestic issue that will lead to our failure, but in the name of all that is Holy, STOP talking about NOT raising the debt ceiling.

    That will have global ramifications and failure

    If we want to damage our own country that is our "representive's" choice, but do not drag the rest of the world down along with us!

    February 3, 2011 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  2. Mr DemocratMan

    The libs need to put on the big boy pants and do their job.

    February 3, 2011 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  3. Kevin

    The reason that Democrats are bringing it up is because it forces the GOP to either prove the Democrats correct, or negotiate deals with Democrats that will displease the GOP's base.

    February 3, 2011 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "But as one reporter aptly noted to the leaders, it is the Democrats talking most about shutting down the government."

    Of course they are. The GOP loves playing hide the ball. Do you really think that if you're planning to do or cause or at least threaten to do or cause a complete and utter catastrophe like you've done in the past....do you run around town yelling "I'm going cause a catastrophe...lookit me, lookit me...I'm about to screw everyone!!!!" Of course you don't.

    "The reason for the Democratic talking point is politically obvious. Republicans were punished by voters when they controlled Congress in 1995 and a spending fight with a Democratic president led to a government shutdown."

    Yes, it is, and you've tried to avoid it throughout this article: they've actually threatened to do it and a significant number of them are on record as saying they will not under any circumstances vote to increase the debt ceiling. Toomey even proposed a bill that would mandate that we divert funding from things like Social Security and Medicare to paying off China and other debtors if the debt ceiling gets reached...rather than raising the debt ceiling...and everyone knows it is a 100% absolute certainty that the debt ceiling will need to be raised this year in order to avoid a shutdown. Trying to paint this as Dems solely playing political games is disingenuous, dishonest and smarmy.

    "but none has said what Schumer and other leaders allege, that they are "going to shut the government down."

    Again, this is true, but intentionally misleading. Nobody has said "I am going to burn the house down" but they have said "I'm going to strike this match and drop it in that puddle of gasoline I poured on your couch." Threatening to refuse to raise the debt ceiling is functionally equivalent to promising to cause a shutdown. Semantic games are unbefitting true journalism.

    February 3, 2011 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  5. Inmyopinion

    Sen. Schumer needs to stop trying to scare us, angrying us against Republicans, these old tactics are just that, Old. Enough with old school practices and get to work. If Schumer would spend as much time working constructively as he does on spreading fear, anger positive results would be accomplished for our country.

    February 3, 2011 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  6. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    In other words, the Dems want to keep spending the country deeper into bankruptcy.

    February 3, 2011 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  7. malabar

    Does it count as fearmongering when dems. . . hahaha, of course not! and its totally fine that lefty protestors called for the lynching of clarence thomas outside the koch event. damn tea party

    February 3, 2011 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  8. Monster Zero

    Wouldn't it be grand if the government shut down and the only ones that really felt any repercussions of benefit were government employee's and the entitlement slugs?

    February 3, 2011 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  9. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    At this point, what do Republicans have to hold their breath and stomp about? They already got Tax Cuts For The Rich.

    Couldn't they just go ahead and help run the Country for the good of the people for a change?

    February 3, 2011 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  10. OneMoreTime

    Republicans don't have to talk about, it will happen. If I understand their plan, they want to let the debt ceiling expire, then
    use the money to pay interest money to China, and delay all other payments to social security, etc. These debts were
    incurred in the past, and President Obama wants to use the "pay as you go" on new debts. Very confusing, but I think
    the Democrats are warning, and the Republicans are planning "in secret" as is their usual MO.

    February 3, 2011 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  11. mcoville

    Again the Democrats want to hold Americans hostage in order to maintain the status quo, and then blame the GOP for it. THIS is why we are in the mess that we are in, the DNC refuses to listen to the will of the people.

    Cut spending, repeal Obamacare and end the wars. The people spoke on Nov 2 2010 and we will do it again 2012.

    February 3, 2011 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  12. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    It would interesting politically to see the Republicans shut down the government based on not having a budget. I don't want to see that happen though. It would mean that people can't get things done – no payment for people working on roads; no payments to vets who need it among other things. Think of the research that will be paused and possibly lost because of this kind of thing.

    February 3, 2011 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  13. Jim

    Well, McConnell would know a political stunt if he saw one, he's performed plenty of them. While I agree that shutdown of the Government would be catastrophic, the Dems need to get off this talking point until the Republicans actually do it. Then, they can pillory the Republicans all they want.

    February 3, 2011 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  14. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    When Newt and the republicans shut down government in 1995, it cost taxpayers $800 million. This time when republicans shut down government, it will cause a global meltdown, not just a mere 800 million.

    February 3, 2011 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  15. BLM

    Chuckie Schumer needs a good spanking.

    February 3, 2011 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  16. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Maybe the crazy republicans ought to start thinking about creating jobs. It appears their number only priorities are abortion, repeal health care, raise our national debt, destroy the American worker, turn every government program over to big business.

    February 3, 2011 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  17. terry, va

    Dumbocraps are the one's that are trying to shut down government. They don't want to do anything but spend this country into bankruptcy. The repubs will reduce the deficit, with the welfare dumbocraps kicking and screaming !!!!!

    February 3, 2011 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  18. Bill from GA

    Any talk of solving our debt problems without raising taxes is doomed to failure.

    Most Americans (those over thirty) have paid higher taxes much of our lives, while experiencing a (usually) vibrant economy. We saw the USA lead the world. Now, with the Bush (now repug/Obama) tax cuts, we have no hope of reducing our yearly deficit, much less paying down the National debt.

    My generation, and others, paid the price for this great country; now we are told this country isn't worth paying for. "It's your money, keep it!"

    You don't get a Bentley for the price of a Kia. If you love the USA, PAY FOR IT!

    February 3, 2011 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  19. Aaron McGivern

    It seems that some of the members of Congress still do not get the fact that the American public is tired of the game playing and one upsmanship by politicians of both parties. A compromise has to be made on the fiscal issues. Americans all realize that there has to be a cutback in spending. It will hurt, it should hurt the rich and poor equally. It appears that liberal voices have been much too quiet in this and other debates, as evidenced in an artilce at http://www.speakingforamericans.com by a man named Justin. Accuracy In Media posts there on a regular basis. But where are the liberal voices? Americans are willing to accept some cuts but let's make them fair to all classes of Americans. Shutting down the government is not what we need.

    February 3, 2011 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  20. PalmReader

    "The new language will now state the prohibitions on federal funding "shall not apply to an abortion if the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest" – the same language as the current law."

    Once again, CNN clears the way for anti-abortionists to demand that their taxpayer dollars do not be used for abortions - regardless of the Hyde Act, which has, since the early 70s, prohibited federally funded elective abortions, as well as Presidential Executive Order 13535, signed into law on 3/21/2010 by President Obama, upholding the Hyde Act. They will continue to beat the dead horse, over and over. That so many of them are men is unusual . . . considering a man will never face the physical possibility of ever having an abortion. Yet, their fascination in this cause is not quite clear, including that of why they become so, well, determined to stop a woman from doing so. The same applies to defining rape to only include forcible rape in the dialogue - all of it a game - with the belittlement of women their end goal.

    February 3, 2011 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  21. inofritzn

    OMG Dems misrepresenting reality? Drumming up fear? Creating strawmen? Noooooo The world is ending in 2012 afterall!

    February 3, 2011 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  22. Rickster

    Please let the government shut down for awhile. That's the only way to keep the democrats from thinking up new ways to separate me from my money.

    February 3, 2011 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  23. Bedtime for Obonzo

    A well balanced article.

    February 3, 2011 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  24. Protect and Defend Freedom of Speech in the USA

    But as one reporter aptly noted to the leaders, it is the Democrats talking most about shutting down the government.
    ============================================================================================
    OMG!! A reporter that doesn't have his head stuck up the Democrats backside??!! THERE IS HOPE!!

    Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, accused Republicans of "playing with fire"
    ===============================================================
    So running up 1.0-1.5 TRILLION DOLLAR ANNUAL DEFICITS and running the national debt to 14 TRILLION and more isn't "playing with fire"???!!! The Democrats are hopeless fools if they think this is 1995 all over again. The are cluelessly stuck in the past. People are MUCH more informed about the financial state of this country and what this insane spending is doing to our country.

    The FACT is if the insane spending of the Democrats isn't stopped and drastic cuts made, THIS COUNTRY WILL COME TO A HALT, not just the federal government.

    February 3, 2011 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  25. Brian

    Really? Republicans havent ever said they are going to "shut the government down"? I know 3-4 months is a long time, but that's what the Republican leaders and candidiates were saying during the 2010 elections. A little journalism would have been nice here. how about this to start your research...

    “If we hold the line, if we get those courageous men and women to be part of our majority, if we say: ‘Look, we’re in a partnership with the American people, we’re listening to the American people,’ this is what we’re going to do. If government shuts down, we want you with us...We gotta have you because later on you all will call us and say, ‘Look I didn’t get my check,’ ‘Daddy can’t go to the VA,’ you know, ‘National Parks are closed.’ We need to be sure that you are with us because let me tell you, this is what all Americans need to understand. We need to understand this and I hope you can help share this analogy with people, just as when you talk about what is going to possibly happen." Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga, Sept. 10, 2010 ( Faith and Freedom Conference and Strategy Briefing).

    "There's going to be a government shutdown, just like in '95 and '96 but we're going to win it this time and I'll be fightin' on your side," Dick Morris, August 27, 2010 (Americans for Prosperity Foundation Conference )

    "I'm almost giddy thinking about a government shutdown next year. I cannot wait!" – Erick Erickson, Aug 30, 2010.

    And of course if you ask someone point blank if a government shut down is on the table, and they refuse to say its not, that's pretty much the same as saying "yes, it is". Here is an article from Dana Bash making that exact point: http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/01/24/top-senate-budget-republican-not-ruling-out-government-shutdown/

    I particularly like the quote from Jeff Sessions about the 95 shut down: ""It worked out good for the country. We had three years of balanced budgets that would never have happened had they not fought that hard in Congress so I think that Congress does have to fight" . So when a Republican leader not only refuses to say that a shut down is off the table, but goes on to say that government shut downs are "good for the country", how exactly is that not saying that they are considering a government shut down? is this just some weird point about parsing words? is the point of the story that Republicans haven't actually said the words "government shut down" in a few months? If the government shuts down because of a budget conflict, is it any different if Republicans just dont call it a "govenrment shut down"?

    February 3, 2011 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
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