It’s day three of the government shutdown. House Speaker John Boehner met with President Obama at the White House last night, but there is so sign the two can come to an agreement.
The president says he flatly rejects any attempt to restore funding for certain agencies, such as the military and the national parks — proposals from Republican lawmakers.
Several moderate House Republicans say they now have a new proposal they think the president will support.
Here & Now speaks with one of those lawmakers, Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania.
He says the measure would keep the government running while also repealing the medical device tax that helps pay for the Affordable Care Act.
“There are many different ways to reach common agreement,” Fitzpatrick told Here & Now. “And we are just trying to bring people together.”
- Michael Fitzpatrick, Republican U.S. Representative for Pennsylvania’s 8th congressional district. He tweets @RepFitzpatrick.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson.
ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:
I'm Robin Young. It's HERE AND NOW. And it is day three of the government shutdown, the finger-pointing continuing. Speaking in Rockville, Maryland today, President Obama said again that instead of attaching provisions to defund the health care law, Congress needs to pass a budget bill that's just a budget bill.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The only thing preventing people from going back to work and basic research starting back up and farmers and small business owners getting their loans, the only thing that's preventing all that from happening right now, today, in the next five minutes, is that Speaker John Boehner won't even let the bill get a yes or no vote.
YOUNG: But Speaker Boehner said today that that meeting with the president last night went nowhere because the president is refusing to open up a debate on the Affordable Care Act.
HOBSON: Meanwhile some cracks are beginning to show in the Republican bloc in the House. Several moderate Republicans now say that they would be willing to vote for a bill that would continue to fund the government without defunding all of the Affordable Care Act. Congressman Michael Filpatrick from - Fitzpatrick from Pennsylvania is one of them, and he joins us on the line. Welcome.
REPRESENTATIVE MICHAEL FITZPATRICK: Jeremy, thank you so much.
HOBSON: Well, if you had your way right now, how would we end this shutdown?
FITZPATRICK: Well, I think it ends as most difficult, sometimes intractable, problems end, which is different sides get together, they listen to each other, they find common ground and then use the areas of common interest or common ground to forge the solution. And I believe there is one right in front of us.
HOBSON: Which is?
FITZPATRICK: Which is the potential to agree to continuing operations of the government at funding levels that are already agreed on between Democrats and Republicans, together with medical device tax repeal that's paid for. That will provide enough common ground, I think, to get a resolution through the House and the Senate so we can get it to the president's desk.
HOBSON: So Congressman, let me just understand, if that is what it will take to end the shutdown, are you telling me that the government is shut down, that people can't go to national parks, that people in cancer clinical trials can't get them done because of a medical device tax that's part of Obamacare?
FITZPATRICK: No, not at all. I mean, the reason that the government has ceased operations, those areas that you're talking about, is because the Democrats and Republicans stopped talking to each other. And when they stopped talking, they couldn't find a compromise. So there are many different ways that you can reach common agreement, and we're just trying to find those areas we can bring people together.
We think we've found it. It's essentially members of the Republican Party and Democratic Party who are not in leadership, who are more interested in resolving the situation than creating a conflict. We think we found a solution. We're going to bring it to the leadership, we're going to propose it, and we think if that's what it takes to get the government operating, and everybody agrees to it, we should do it and do it now.
HOBSON: You've got some Republican colleagues who have spoken out about the Tea Party wing of your party that is essentially taking control here and that if John Boehner, the speaker, were willing to bring a clean funding bill without this medical device tax repeal on it to the floor of the House, it would pass. Is that what's happening?
FITZPATRICK: Well, you know, when the House is closely divided, which it is, there are roughly 200 Democrats and 230 Republicans, so any group of 17 it seems like could hold the rest of the conference at bay while they're, you know, seeking what it is they're seeking. So any small group can do that.
HOBSON: Congressman, why did you initially vote to defund the Affordable Care Act, which in the end shut down the government, if now you're saying that you would like the government to reopen with just a small part of the Affordable Care Act taken away?
FITZPATRICK: I'm not sure what vote you're talking about, Jeremy, but there was...
HOBSON: On September 20th, didn't you vote to pass the funding bill that would have defunded Obamacare?
FITZPATRICK: And there were several funding bills that have been passed through the House. I've supported every single funding bill that would've kept the government operational, including one that would have repealed the medical device tax, it was not able to be passed on by the Senate; including one that would have required that members of Congress live up to the same rules as every other citizen under the Obamacare exchanges, I supported that as well, the Senate wouldn't take that up.
But what I'm saying to you is that if we're going to get something through the House and the Senate and to the president's desk, it has to be able to provide something for each side, and I think that's important. That's how you form the basis of an agreement.
HOBSON: But you've heard President Obama say why am I having to renegotiate over a law that's already been passed.
FITZPATRICK: The president has already negotiated, and the Senate has agreed to several revisions, and I think that the Senate Democrats and the president have agreed that additional changes need to be made. Congress is constantly negotiating legislation and budget numbers. This is no different.
HOBSON: Do you think that we can get to a point where this stalemate ends soon? Is it going to happen in the next couple weeks?
FITZPATRICK: Well, I'll tell you, I certainly hope so. I've spent the last two days working with several groups, bipartisan groups trying to find that compromise. Look, you know, Democrats go to their Democratic conference, Republicans go to the Republican conference. Some of us meet with those on the other side of the aisle trying to find the common ground.
Every time you've gotten to a budget stalemate or a debt ceiling deadline, and you try to work your way through it, I'm going to say each time that's happened in the history that I recall in this country, during my lifetime, it's happened because there were bipartisan solutions. We have a couple of bipartisan solutions now. The one that's being discussed just today I think is the best opportunity we have in the House to get a continuing resolution through to continue the funding of the government operations and all those really, really important programs and services to the citizens of the United States that are so important.
HOBSON: Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick, Republican of Pennsylvania, thanks so much for joining us.
FITZPATRICK: OK, Jeremy, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.