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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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

McMorris Rodgers: “What we are fighting for is fairness for all.” (Associated Press)
David Wasson And Kip Hill The Spokesman-Review

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.