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Shutdown Diary, Day 4: When 'Winning' Isn't Everything

Posted: October 4, 2013

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The day centered on a quote attributed to an unnamed source. But one thing President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner could agree on: Nobody's winning in Washington.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, at a Friday news conference.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, at a Friday news conference. J. Scott Applewhite

As the federal government shutdown approached its first weekend, there was plenty of heat, though no light at the end of the tunnel.

Highlights: Congressional Republicans

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, deployed a quote from an anonymous "senior administration official" who, according to The Wall Street Journal, said: "We are winning."

"This isn't some damn game," Boehner told journalists.

Boehner also portrayed a harder public stance Friday on the debt ceiling than he reportedly showed to some House Republicans in private meetings this week. He assured them in those meetings that he would not allow the U.S. to default on its debt, according to reports published in several news outlets.

On Friday, Boehner said:

"This year we'll have more revenue than any year in the history of our country and yet still have a nearly $700 billion deficit. And I think the American people expect if we're going to raise the amount of money we can borrow, we ought to do something about our spending problem and the lack of economic growth in our country."

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, appeared on the Senate floor for the first time in days as he tried to advance an idea he's given credit for — the piecemeal funding of popular parts of the government like Veterans Affairs, the National Park Service and the National Institutes of Health. The Democrats have repeatedly rejected this approach, saying all of the government must be reopened.

Arguing that Democrats had already made an exception by voting to fund the pay of active military service members, Cruz said: "They've done it once but for whatever reason they've made a decision that appears to the public to be cynical and partisan."

Congressional Democrats

Senate Democrats needled right back. "I can understand the anxiety you feel about the problems you've created by your actions, but trying to solve them one piece at a time is not the American way," said Richard Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's second-ranking Democrat.

At a news conference, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was asked if he shouldn't give Republicans something as a way to help them save face.

"This is not a face-saving deal," said Reid. "This isn't a date to the prom. This is our country."

Meanwhile, House Democrats unveiled an idea they hoped could lead to a vote on the Senate-passed spending bill to reopen the government with no strings attached.

The House minority said it would try a high-difficulty maneuver, the passage of a discharge petition to force Boehner to bring the Senate bill to a House floor vote. It would require a majority of the House, a combination of 218 Republicans and Democrats to sign the petition.

"If a majority of members sign this petition, House members can take up an up-or-down vote on reopening the government as early as Oct. 14," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif.

Both the Senate and the House were scheduled to be in session over the weekend.

The White House

President Obama and Vice President Biden took a surprise lunchtime stroll to a sandwich shop near the White House. It was a chance for Obama to try to neutralize the unhelpful "winning" comment. "There's no winning when families don't have certainty about [whether] they're going to get paid or not," Obama said.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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