ABC News’ John R. Parkinson reports:
While debate on hundreds of amendments to the GOP’s spending bill creeps closer to a conclusion Friday evening and a vote for final passage in the House of Representatives could occur as soon as early Saturday morning, House Republicans are poised to pass legislation that is unlikely to move any closer to becoming law.
With the Democratic majority in the Senate unlikely to pass the bill and President Obama threatening to veto the bill even if it passed the Senate, Speaker of the House John Boehner was adamant Friday evening that it’s not Republicans trying shut down the government, but rather Washington Democrats are to blame if lawmakers cannot come to a compromise before current funding runs out March 4.
“The only people in this town rooting for a government shutdown are Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. There's not one Republican talking about government shutdown. Our goal is to cut spending because it will lead to a better environment for job creation in America,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “It’s going to be fascinating here over the next few weeks and months as we work our way through this, but these are going to be the most important two, three, four months that we’ve seen in decades.”
In anticipation of a stalemate with the Senate once House Republicans eventually pass the measure, late Friday evening House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic leadership introduced a short-term extension of the current continuing resolution that would maintain current spending levels, a proposal Boehner already announced he would not support.
“This bill would continue the freeze in government spending contained in the current CR,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday evening in a statement. “In order to give Congress time to finish the legislation and avoid the calamitous effect of a government shutdown on the American people, I am hopeful Republican leaders will agree to a short term extension of the freeze as we work to pass a bill the President can sign into law for the remainder of 2011.”
As the night crept on and lawmakers inched forward on debate over hundreds of amendments to the spending bill, Boehner spent more than 20 minutes Friday evening gaggling with reporters in the Speaker’s Lobby, an ornate hallway that runs directly behind the dais in the House chamber where Members, aides and reporters mingle during votes.
“We’ve seen a real debate! That’s what the American people expect of their Congress. This is the People’s House. You’ve heard that term as long as you’ve all been around here. I’ve heard it for the 20 years that I’ve been here, but there’s no example of the people’s House better than what we’ve seen here,” Boehner said. “I think the House working its will is what the Founders had envisioned for this House, and when the House works its will I think is when the House works its best.”
Boehner also said that the open process is an effective method to break in the freshmen members and help them learn to become legislators.
“The freshman are as excited about this as anyone else, and it’s been good for them to participate in the debate. You know, half of our freshmen have never served in public office and allowing them to participate in this will speed up their development as legislators. Just putting together an amendment that is in order as a freshman, that’s a pretty difficult task to get through,” Boehner said. “Our job’s not to have control over them. This is a concept out of what you’d seen here in your history books and that is not the way the House should be run. You know, I have a vision of what I think the role of the federal government should or shouldn’t be, and I can exercise that role in terms of what comes to the floor. But once it comes to the floor, the members ought to be able to have a debate and make those decisions on their own. And it’s not about achieving my will. It’s about – my job is to protect the institution and right now my big job is to restore institution that’s been badly damaged over a long period of time.”
Boehner said that during his 20 years serving in the House of Representatives, he has never seen a bill on the floor for four days with this many amendments on any bill.
“We’re different than any other country in the world. All of the strife and all of our differences all get fought out right on the floor of that House, and when they don’t get fought out there, it’s like allowing the steam to build up in a tea kettle. You know, sooner or later you’re going to have a real problem,” Boehner added. “I was just watching 20 years of leaders tighten down the process, tighten down the process, tighten down the process, trying to reconfigure all the rules in order for them to pass their agenda, the leader’s agenda. And I don’t think that’s – that is not my job. I said in 1991 during a debate on a closed rule – I said what do we have to fear in allowing the House to work its will. I said it then, I meant it, I’ve never believed anything otherwise. And I’m proud of this moment.”