House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), speaking from the House floor Saturday morning, called the government shutdown a “shakedown strategy” that Senate Democrats were talked into by their base.
Ryan noted the House on Thursday passed a short-term spending bill that would keep the government running for several more weeks while Congress worked on a full-year spending bill and immigration reform. It also contained a six-year extension of a low-income children’s health program the Democrats wanted and delay of health care taxes.
But when the bill was taken up by the Senate on Friday night, Senate Democrats blocked it. Senate Democrats have refused to pass a spending bill or short-term measure unless it contained a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which President Trump rescinded and gave Congress until March 5 to fix.
“Here is the simple truth: Senate Democrats refuse to fund this government unless we agree to their demands on something entirely unrelated,” Ryan declared. “They want to deal on immigration and then they’ll think about reopening the government.”
“It is a shakedown strategy that Senate Democrats have been talked into by their base,” he said.
Ryan then listed a number of quotes that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said himself about Republicans shutting down the government in 2013.
“Here is what in 2013, Sen. Schumer said: ‘No matter how strongly one feels about an issue, you shouldn’t hold people hostage,'” Ryan recounted. “He was right — you shouldn’t. But that is exactly what he and his party are doing right now.”
“Here’s something else that Sen. Schumer said in 2013: ‘I believe in immigration reform. What if I persuaded my caucus to say, I’m going to shut down the government, not going to pay our bills unless I get my way? It’s a politics of idiocy, of confrontation, of parallels,'” he continued. “His words, not mine.”
Ryan noted that furlough notices were going out to federal workers across the country, including to half of the civilians who work in the Defense Department.
In addition, he said, training for reserve troops have stopped, National Guardsmen have been sent home, and money for children’s health insurance is running out.
“All of it is completely unnecessary. But Senate Democrats believe none of it is too high a price to pay for appeasing their political base,” he said.
“There is no reason for this shutdown. We have been and we continue to be willing to work together in good faith on immigration, but that deadline… is weeks away,” he added.
He also addressed federal workers affected by the shutdown: “You deserve so much better than this needless shutdown and we hope that it will end very soon.”