October 5, 2013 in City

McMorris Rodgers: GOP won’t back down on budget fight

David Wasson And Kip Hill The Spokesman-Review
Associated Press photo

McMorris Rodgers: “What we are fighting for is fairness for all.”
(Full-size photo)

Christmas Tree

A prolonged government shutdown could alter the publicity tour for the Capitol Christmas Tree, which comes from the Colville National Forest this year.

Forest Service officials plan to fell an 88-foot Engelmann spruce during a Nov. 1 ceremony attended by dignitaries and local residents.

The tree is scheduled to spend about four days in Newport, Wash., before embarking on a 25-stop, 5,000-mile journey to the Capitol, said Jeff Olson, president of Choose Outdoors, the nonprofit partner raising funds to transport the tree to Washington, D.C.

But the schedule could change if the cutting date is pushed back as a result of the shutdown, Olson said. The tree needs to arrive at the Capitol by Nov. 25, giving officials there a week to decorate and set it up on the west lawn of the Capitol Building.

At this point, stops are planned in Colville, Spokane and nine other Washington cities, and cities in 11 other states along the route. When the tree’s itinerary is finalized, it will be posted at www.capitolchristmastree.com.

Choose Outdoors has raised about $500,000 in cash and donated services to cover transportation costs.

Becky Kramer

Food assistance

Washington is joining Idaho and other states pledging to continue providing nutritional assistance to low-income mothers and children through October if the government shutdown persists.

Earlier, officials with the Women, Infants and Children program in Washington had said they would run out of money by next week unless Congress approved a spending plan. But that time frame has now been extended because the U.S. Agriculture Department has distributed surplus funds to keep state programs running through the end of the month.

Spokane Regional Health District, which administers the program locally, warned a shutdown lasting longer than a month could affect services in November, and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said a prolonged shutdown could force the closure of some offices. But vouchers will continue to be honored until that point.

Kip Hill

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the Spokane Republican at the center of the partial government shutdown, said Friday the GOP remains united in forcing Democrats to the negotiating table over Obamacare and other federal spending issues.

“It is our goal to open up the negotiations over the budget,” said McMorris Rodgers, chair of the House Republican Conference and one of Speaker John Boehner’s top lieutenants. “Passing a clean (spending bill) doesn’t solve the problem.”

McMorris Rodgers’ comments came as Democrats announced a deal is in the works to bypass GOP House leaders by persuading a handful of moderate Republicans to vote with otherwise outnumbered Democrats to end the shutdown.

But McMorris Rodgers cautioned against reading too much into that: “I don’t believe they do have the votes.”

David Nice, a professor of political science at Washington State University, has been observing the ongoing budget battle in Congress and said Friday he also thinks House Democrats will have a tough time convincing enough of their GOP counterparts to jump ship on spending plan negotiations.

“Abandoning your party is considered really, really over the top,” Nice said.

Although most of the Northwest congressional delegation is standing strong on their party lines, initial reports indicated earlier this week that Idaho U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson may be among the two dozen House Republicans willing to consider a so-called “clean continuing resolution” to get government reopened. But in a statement released this week, Simpson clarified that he only favored a very short-term agreement that would get federal workers back on the job but force debate over long-term spending and health care to continue.

“Let me be clear, I am going to continue to support the position of our Republican Caucus in the ongoing shutdown dispute,” Simpson said in the statement.

Meanwhile, McMorris Rodgers continued Friday to blame Democrats and President Barack Obama for forcing the shutdown by refusing to negotiate over Republican demands to delay implementation of the president’s signature health care reforms.

And she dismissed criticism that tying the demands to a spending bill needed to pay for ongoing government operations is frivolous and misplaced.

“What we are fighting for is fairness for all,” McMorris Rodgers said, explaining that Obama has been granting waivers and exemptions for some under the Affordable Care Act, and in July delayed implementation of the employer mandate. “If the president has decided because of the pressure by big businesses that this law is not ready for prime time and he’s going to grant them a delay, then he should be delaying it for individuals and families all across this country.”

However, she also took steps to make clear that Republican concern continues to be with overall federal spending levels, signaling that House leaders already are looking at the looming Oct. 17 deadline for increasing the nation’s debt limit to avoid default and are prepared to wrap both issues into the same showdown.

McMorris Rodgers, for example, said she doubts Senate leaders could find enough Democratic votes in their own chamber to increase the debt limit without agreements on reduced spending.

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