WASHINGTON — Lawmakers battled in news conferences and in the House and Senate chambers Friday but made no visible progress toward ending the partial government shutdown that has idled workers and stalled services.
Republicans attacked Democrats for refusing to negotiate on a House-passed resolution that would fund the government through mid-December while delaying a key part of the Affordable Care Act.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, said on the House floor, “The Democratic approach is very simple: Do everything I want and then I'll be willing to negotiate.”
That approach, he said, is no way to find common ground, “and I don't think it's likely to succeed.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Democrats had agreed to a major compromise when they accepted a budget number that was $70 billion below what they wanted to spend.
If Republicans would agree to reopen the government, Reid said, Democrats would sit down and negotiate over the whole range of spending issues.
Reid and President Barack Obama have repeatedly refused to negotiate while the government is shut down. And they say they won't negotiate over raising the nation's debt ceiling later this month.
Obama's only public appearance on Friday came when he and Vice President Joe Biden went to a downtown deli for a sandwich.
“I'm happy to have negotiations, but we can't do it with a gun held to the head of the American people,” Obama said.
Asked whether he thought he was winning — a reference to a quote from an anonymous administration official in The Wall Street Journal on Friday — Obama said “no one was winning” while major parts of the government were shut down.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, also referred to the “winning” quote in a news conference and said, “This isn't some damn game.”
Public relations war?
In an interview, Cole said, “Right now, I think the politics are too good for (Democrats) — in their view — to sit down and have a meaningful discussion. I think they're trying to push it out as far as they can and see if they can win the (public relations) war.”
The dynamics will change over the debt ceiling, Cole said, because people want to see some progress toward reducing the nation's debt in exchange for more borrowing.