By Russell Berman - 10/01/13 09:30 PM EDT
House Republicans on Tuesday will move to re-open small portions of the federal government, bringing up bills to fund the National Park Service, part of the Department of Veterans Affairs and operations for the District of Columbia.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his team are trying to deflect blame for the shutdown and show that Republicans are still doing their part to keep open important parts of the government.
The House is expected to vote early Tuesday evening on three separate bills, which would come to the floor under a suspension of the rules and require a two thirds majority to pass. That would mean the measures would need significant Democratic support and would allow Republicans to blame Democrats if they failed.
“President Obama and Senator Harry Reid would rather shut down the government than engage in talks to end special treatment for the well connected under ObamaCare,” a House GOP leadership aide said. “Closed parks and delayed veterans benefits can be easily remedied and allow us to remain focused on forcing the Senate to finally come to the table and talk with us.”
Senate Democrats and President Obama rejected the proposals, with a spokesman for Obama saying he would veto the measures if they reached his desk.
"These piecemeal efforts are not serious, and they are no way to run a government," White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said.
"If House Republicans are legitimately concerned about the impacts of a shut down - which extend across government from our small businesses to women, children and seniors - they should do their job and pass a clean CR to reopen the government," she said. "The president and the Senate have been clear that they won’t accept this kind of game-playing, and if these bills were to come to the President’s desk he would veto them."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on the Senate floor accused the House of "cherry picking" funding, calling it a "wacky" idea.
Earlier Tuesday, House Republicans held a photo-op with their appointees to a conference committee they want the Senate to join as a way of resolving the impasse over a stopgap spending bill, or continuing resolution (CR). The Senate rejected the House’s offer on a party-line vote Tuesday morning.
The leadership plan appeared to gain broad support from the conference. It drew praise from conservative leaders, and centrist members who have called for the GOP to acquiesce to Democratic demands also indicated they would vote for the bills, if reluctantly.
“There’s no harm in doing that. It keeps the pressure on, but the big picture is we have to get a clean CR,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said. “It’s not my strategy.”
The move was also an indication that Republicans are slowly moving away from their demands to dismantle President Obama’s healthcare law in the continuing resolution.
“We’ve got to mitigate the damage from ObamaCare, and we’ve got to mitigate the damage from the government shutdown,” Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) said. “Let’s move forward with opening as much of the government as we can get the Senate to agree on.”
“This goes way beyond ObamaCare,” he added. “This goes to how we operate in divided government. I think the whole ObamaCare thing is a distraction.”
The new House GOP strategy mirrors the approach that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has been advocating.
“We should fund national parks and keep them open right now, today,” Cruz told reporters Tuesday. “And we saw yesterday, that can happen quickly. It doesn’t take weeks or even days, within hours, if Congress wants to, we can fund every single one of the priorities the president laid out yesterday, we can fund clean CRs if Harry Reid and the Democrats don’t object. That is what I hope we will do.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney dismissed a piecemeal approach on government funding as “not serious.”
“If we want to open the government, they should open the government,” Carney said.
The White House spokesman said Republicans were “twisting themselves into pretzels” to cater to the right wing of the party.
“They're contortionists now in all the ways they've tried to evade their essential responsibility,” Carney said.
The shutdown began after the Republican-led House and the Democratic-led Senate exchanged a furious series of legislative volleys over the last week. The House sent amendment after amendment to a continuing resolution, seeking to delay, defund and scrap ObamaCare. The Senate swatted down each attempt.
Yet in an indication of how fast the legislation has moved, conservative Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) was apparently unaware that a bill he championed to ensure the payment of military service during a shutdown has been passed by both the House and Senate and signed by the president.
During the House GOP meeting Tuesday, Gohmert stood up to ask that the bill be part of the conference committee the House was demanding for the continuing resolution, Fleming said. “And the Speaker said, ‘Louie, your bill already got passed and signed into law. There is no reason for a conference!’” Fleming recalled. Boehner made the retort in jest, he added.
The exchange was confirmed by a second person in the room.
Jeremy Herb and Justin Sink contributed.
This story was updated at 5:30 p.m.