Democrats Call For GOP To Unite, End Shutdown

Oct 4, 2013
Originally published on October 4, 2013 4:43 pm

President Obama is staying home from economic summits in Asia as Democrats call on Republicans to unite and end the government shutdown, while Republicans argue that the president is refusing to negotiate.

Meanwhile, a video has surfaced showing Kentucky Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul discussing strategy.

Paul: I just did CNN and I just go over and over again ‘We’re willing to compromise. We’re willing to negotiate.’ I think… I don’t think they poll tested we won’t negotiate. I think it’s awful for [Democrats] to say that over and over again.

McConnell: Yeah, I do too and I, and I just came back from that two hour meeting with them and that was, that was basically the same view privately as it was publicly.

Paul: I think if we keep saying, ‘We wanted to defund it. We fought for that and now we’re willing to compromise on this’, I think they can’t, we’re gonna, I think… well, I know we don’t want to be here, but we’re gonna win this, I think.


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From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Robin Young.


I'm Jeremy Hobson. It's HERE AND NOW. Coming up, a closer look at that medical device tax that has become a bargaining chip in the government shutdown debate.

YOUNG: But first, back to that debate.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: All we're asking for is to sit down and have a discussion and to bring fairness - re-open the government, and bring fairness to the American people under Obamacare.

YOUNG: Brandishing and then throwing down a Wall Street Journal like a gauntlet at a press conference today, House Speaker John Boehner said he doesn't want the government to shut down, and that this isn't a game. He was referring to an article in the Journal that quoted White House officials saying they are winning the showdown battle.

Meanwhile, President Obama is canceling his trip to Asia, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said this morning that the House has votes scheduled today to fund FEMA and provide nutrition assistance for pregnant women, continuing a push to a piecemeal approach that Democrats have criticized.

So there's lots going on on this Friday. Let's bring in Ron Elving, NPR's senior Washington editor. And Ron, we thought it was interesting that John Boehner tossed down the Journal. The paper has not supported the Tea Party-led shutdown.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: It was a bit of an ironic moment that he should be seizing up a copy of the Wall Street Journal on the one issue where the Wall Street Journal has not been supportive of Republicans. Generally speaking, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, in particular, is seen as a bastion of conservatism. And this is, if you will, emblematic of the split among conservatives about how they feel about the shutdown tactic.

Of course, he was not referring to a Wall Street Journal editorial at that moment. As you say, he was referring to a story that quoted a White House official as using the word winning. Now, there's a little bit of a mixed message going on here, because a lot of other Republicans are talking about winning the particular struggle themselves.

YOUNG: Well, and they're talking about a lot of things that they may have thought were off the record. The Republicans may be split, but they were very united today at this press conference, Republican after Republican getting up and saying it's the Democrats who are not negotiating.

Now, there's a video circulating of a conversation caught on tape between Kentucky Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul. This is after McConnell did an interview on CNN. He started the conversation by warning Paul Rand: I'm all wired up. But still - Rand Paul, rather, sorry - warning Rand Paul that he was all wired up. But Rand Paul still came in, and they had this whispered conversation.


SENATOR RAND PAUL: I don't think they poll-tested we won't negotiate. I think it's awful for them to say that over and over again.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Yeah, I do, too. And I just came back from a two-hour meeting with him, and that was basically the same view, privately, as it was publicly.

PAUL: I think if we keep saying we wanted to defund it, we fought for that, but now we're willing to compromise on this, I think they can't - I think - well, I know we don't want to be here, but we're going to win this, I think.

YOUNG: So, Ron Elving, there you do have some Republicans talking about winning things, as you said. And also, what else are we hearing there?

ELVING: We're also hearing the suggestion that the initial thrust of saying we want to defund and wipe out Obamacare so that there is no Obamacare was just an opening gambit in this negotiation, and that what they really wanted was to then negotiate a delay, which would then, of course, become a further delay and a longer delay. There's no question what Rand Paul's real goals here or Mitch McConnell's real goals here are.

They have said many, many times in public that their idea is to get away from Obamacare entirely, not have it take effect, and not have it be the law of the land, which it is and which it did do. It did become the law of the land and take full effect on October 1st.

So, this is a little bit, again, of a mixed message. And talking about these kinds of tactics and talking about winning the game and then having the speaker come out and say, you know, this isn't a game. This is mixed messaging that comes from not really having a strategy or an endgame worked out in advance.

YOUNG: Well, and this battle over the budget and getting money to spend right now for things that are needed is blending into the debt ceiling battle that's looming, and that, again, is about the government being able to pay off loans for debts it's already incurred.

This morning, Speaker Boehner, at that press conference, was asked about reports that he told fellow Republicans he would not let the government default on its debt as the deadline to raise the debt ceiling looms, October 17th. How does that factor into all of this?

ELVING: We have an interpretation problem, here, Robin, because the speaker has said on many occasions I won't let the United States default. But then he has also said that, in exchange for not letting the United States default, he expects the White House, the Democrats, to give him something, to, in essence, incentivize not allowing the United States to default.

And, of course, there is always an argument over whether or not the government could pay its obligations - that is to say, pay off creditors, people who have bought bonds, investors, and we could take care of them as long as we shut down parts of the government and didn't continue to provide these services. You can't really do entirely both.

And so, of course, many Republicans have suggested pay off the investors, pay the creditors, shut down big parts of the federal government. That would be a win-win for them.

YOUNG: And just to make sure I'm hearing you clearly, Ron, in the seconds we have here, is there a sense that there is a deal - if there's any kind of talk going on at all, that there might be a deal to settle the budget battle by giving something on the debt ceiling battle?

ELVING: There is a sense that all of these things have now been conflated, and that we are negotiating something of a large-scale, if not necessarily grand bargain to solve both the government shutdown and the debt ceiling.

YOUNG: Ron Elving, NPR senior Washington editor. Appreciate it at as always, Ron. Thank you.

ELVING: Thank you, Robin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.