WASHINGTON - Two days after announcing his resignation, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner predicted Congress would meet Wednesday’s deadline to extend U.S. government funding and avoid a partial shutdown.
“I suspect my Democratic colleagues want to keep the government open as much as I do,” said Boehner, a Republican, on the CBS television program Face the Nation.
His planned departure next month has heightened disarray in Congress as yet another fiscal deadline looms. A narrow path exists to avoid a shutdown, but one that will require Republicans and Democrats in both houses of Congress to act in concert and with rare discipline as time runs short.
Boehner acknowledged the challenges he has faced leading a Republican caucus eager to battle Democrats in general and President Barack Obama in particular. He suggested some of his colleagues’ zeal has blinded them to the realities of what can be accomplished in a politically-divided government.
“We’ve got … members of the House and Senate here in town who whip people into a frenzy believing that they can accomplish things that they know — they know! — are never going to happen,” Boehner said on CBS.
Last week, Senate Democrats blocked a spending bill that would have defunded a controversial provider of abortions in the United States – a goal shared by nearly all Republicans.
Republican Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged defeat, and then introduced a stopgap measure extending all current government funding into December.
“I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the legislation I am about to file, which would ensure the government remains open,” McConnell said.
A series of Senate votes on the bill begins later Monday. Should it reach President Barack Obama’s desk by Wednesday, the shutdown will be averted.
But hurdles remain in both legislative chambers. Action could be slowed by hardline Republicans determined to continue the fight over funding for Planned Parenthood, whose officials were secretly videotaped earlier this year discussing the sale of organs from aborted fetuses.
Senator Ted Cruz, who is running for president, says Republicans need to keep promises they make to the voters who elected them.
“People are fed up with politicians who say one thing and do another,” Cruz said.
While a so-called “clean” spending bill divides Republicans, it has universal Democratic backing.
“What a shutdown will do is waste taxpayers’ money and hurt the economy,” said Democratic Senator Jack Reed.
Once a rarity, threatened and actual government shutdowns have become common in Washington as one fiscal year ends and another begins.
“The calendar that Congress and the president use to appropriate funds is the same every year. These aren’t new deadlines,” said Molly Reynolds, a scholar at the Brookings Institution.
Reynolds says Congress is more politically-polarized than ever, prompting fierce showdowns over spending.
“Any way that the parties can elevate their differences in front of voters on the national stage has become increasingly attractive as they have grown further apart,” she added.
A final Senate vote on a spending bill might not happen until Wednesday, giving Speaker Boehner just hours to shepherd the measure through a House chamber beset with divisions and rancor.