Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) hammered Republicans on Thursday for the month's prolonged budget impasse, accusing Republicans of waging a futile fight at the expense of the economy.
The figure is a reference to a recent report from Standard & Poor's, which estimated the government shutdown cost the nation's economy at least $24 billion and shaved 0.6 percent from economic growth.
Republican leaders believed the fiscal stalemate was worth the economic and political damage if it got them closer to derailing President Obama's signature healthcare law. Critics added that ObamaCare would cause much greater economic harm than any temporary government shutdown.
But the budget package approved late Wednesday left ObamaCare virtually intact, fanning the Democrats' charges that the GOP's strategy accomplished little beyond hurting the economy. The S&P report has only given evidence to those accusations.
"I don't know whether the Republican members of the caucus don't know or don't care about the consequences of their actions," Pelosi said. "I have to assume they do care. So now I hope that they will know."
Pelosi said she's optimistic the long-term budget negotiations that launched Thursday as part of the debt package will preempt a similar fiscal showdown early next year, when government funding expires and the Treasury hits the debt ceiling once again.
She warned that those bipartisan talks will stand little chance of success if they occur behind closed doors.
"The more transparency, the better the outcome," she said. "If that table is closed down, if you [the media] are excluded from that, if there isn't live coverage, then it's hard to see how a product can come out of it that we can present to our members."
Since the Republicans took control of the House in 2011, Congress has attempted a series of long-term budget negotiations designed to create jobs, rein in deficits and shore up mandatory programs, including Social Security and Medicare. But those efforts have all failed, as Republicans have resisted new revenues and Democrats have refused to sacrifice entitlements without such revenues on the table.
Pelosi on Thursday said the Republicans' approach to balancing budgets highlights a problematic inclination among GOP lawmakers: a neglect of hard data when deciding policy issues.
"What seems to be missing now in their caucus is a respect for facts. It's like a data-free zone," Pelosi said. "All of the decisions that we make in appropriations and in terms of our budget should be evidenced based.
"Are they in denial? Are they blinded? Are they just ignoring the facts?" she added. "Well, we'll find out."
The budget conference has until mid-December to present a 10-year plan to Congress.