Washington — U.S. House Republicans put forth piecemeal legislation Wednesday to reopen national parks and other federal services, but the White House and Democrats pledged to reject the measures as a political ploy and called for a total end of government shutdown.
That left Washington again stalemated and heading into Day 3 of a federal government shutdown that has furloughed 800,000 federal workers nationwide and thousands in Michigan, closed national parks, curtailed veterans’ services and shuttered the Gerald Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor.
The GOP-led U.S. House debated into the evening on legislation to fund national parks, veterans programs, District of Columbia government, health research and the National Guard. Republicans urged Democrats to pass their legislation to reopen important programs, while Democrats, led by dean of the House Rep. John Dingell, called for Republicans to bring up for a vote a Senate budget bill that would fund all of the government.
Dingell, the longest-serving member of the Congress, took to the House floor Wednesday to condemn the Republicans’ demands.
“I’ve never seen such small-minded, miserable behavior in this House of Representatives and such a disregard of our responsibilities to the people,” the Dearborn Democrat said.
“The American people could get better government out of monkey island in the local zoo,” he added. “I’m embarrassed and I’m humiliated, and I certainly hope that my colleagues on both sides —especially on the Republican side — are embarrassed. This is going to cost us huge amounts of money.”
Dingell’s fiery speech sparked claps from the House gallery.
U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, called out Democrats who reject legislation to fund the National Guard.
“I do not consider paying our National Guard a fig leaf or a distraction,” said Miller, vice chairwoman of the House Committee on Homeland Security. “I consider our National Guard to be warriors essential to the defense of this nation.”
As the debate continued on the House floor Wednesday night, President Barack Obama met with congressional leaders at the White House for their first sitdown since the Sept. 30 expiration of federal funds passed without any congressional budget.
U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, said he hoped the meeting would be constructive.
“Whether that agreement comes tonight or tomorrow or, God help, us next week or the following week, at some point the sun is going to come up,” said Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Until then, he urged passage of a funding bill for the National Institutes of Health so patients could continue to participate in life-saving clinical trials.
“They have every right to be furious with this body,” Upton said. “But we can fix that by passing this bill so they don’t have to wait. C’mon let’s put policy over politics and do this, not for us, but for them.”
California Democrat Henry Waxman responded to Upton: “Let’s put policy over politics by funding the government.”
U.S. House Republicans repeatedly have put forth legislation to fund the government on the condition that the 2010 health care law known as Obamacare is defunded or delayed. Senate Democrats, each time, have rejected the demands and sent a so-called “clean” budget back to the House. On Wednesday, Democrats again urged Speaker of the House John Boehner to put that legislation up for vote, convinced Democrats and enough House Republicans would pass it to end the shutdown.
U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, inquired why House Republicans won’t bring the bill up.
“Why not?” Levin asked Republicans on the House floor during debate on the piecemeal legislation to fund parts of government. “It would pass. That’s why you are not bringing it up. It’s politics within your conference, but it’s harming the people of the country.”
U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, spent the first days of the shutdown at the World War II memorial in Washington where he joined other congressmen in removing barricades so veterans could visit their memorial.
“If there was anything I could do to get these guys in there I was going to do it,” said Huizenga, a son of a World War II veteran. “This is civil disobedience and who cares? We helped open it and got those guys down there.”
Huizenga called Wednesday for Democrats to pass legislation to fund national parks and other services, but said to pass a full budget to restart all of government Democrats need to make “common sense reforms” on Obamacare.
“This is not ready for prime time, and the White House knows it, and the Senate knows it,” Huizenga said.