On Tuesday, the House GOP proposed legislation to restore funding for the National Park Service, the Veterans Administration and DC local government, but a united block of Democrats, with the White House’s blessing, blocked the funding. The GOP was trying to reopen important parts of the government while it sought a more comprehensive deal with the White House. House Democrats, however, opted to keep these agencies closed.
Nothing in the measures to reopen national parks or the VA had to do with ObamaCare. House Republicans were simply offering legislation to extend spending authority that had already been agreed to by Democrats. The national parks could reopen, while Washington debated larger fiscal issues. Most of the VA remains open, but the new funding measure would have enabled some administrative functions to restart.
The White House, however, issued a veto threat over the selective funding approach. This was odd, since the White House had quickly endorsed a narrow piece of legislation to maintain funding for the military, in the wake of a shutdown, on Monday.
All the funding measures passed the House with strong majorities on Tuesday. The rules for expedited consideration, however, required a two-thirds majority. As a block, Democrats voted to keep these agencies closed, causing the measures to fail.
Despite the media narrative, it is Democrats who are taking the hard-line position in the shutdown fight. They have drawn all the wrong lessons from the shutdowns in 1995/1996 and believe they don’t have to compromise on any issue. National Parks could have reopened on Wednesday, but for Democrat opposition.
“The president can’t continue to complain about the impact of the government shutdown on veterans, visitors at National Parks, and D.C. while vetoing bills to help them,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement. “The White House position is unsustainably hypocritical.”
Harry Reid has proudly stated that he won’t talk with Speaker Boehner about the impasse. Senate Democrats have refused to authorize a conference committee with the House to negotiate a solution to the funding crisis. And, the White House vows to veto “clean” bills that reopen selected parts of government.
The Democrats seem intent on waging a partisan fight of the highest order. The underlying issues are less important than forcing a Republican surrender on the broader battle.