By Mike Lillis - 10/05/13 07:15 PM EDT
House Democratic leaders on Saturday offered to clear the field of procedural hurdles if GOP leaders stage a vote on a "clean" spending bill.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) vowed Saturday to rule out the Democrats' procedural options in exchange for a vote on the Senate-passed continuing resolution (CR) to reopen the government.
"The Speaker has said that's his concern. We want to take that concern off the table," she told reporters in the Capitol.
The offer is the latest effort by Democrats to entice Republicans to vote on a clean CR — something GOP leaders have refused to do in the face of opposition from conservatives insisting that provisions to scale back ObamaCare be included in the package.
Boehner's office was quick to refuse the Democrats' offer, arguing that the barriers to a spending deal are coming from Democrats in the Senate and White House, not Republicans in the lower chamber.
"At this point, it's Senate Democrats and the President who are blocking progress on reopening the government and providing the American people fairness under ObamaCare," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Saturday in an email.
In April, after both the House and Senate passed 2014 budget bills, Boehner explained that he wouldn't appoint members to a conference committee out of concern that the Democrats would use a procedural move — dubbed a motion to instruct — to advance Democratic policy priorities.
"Under the rules, if you appoint conferees, and after 20 legislative days there is no agreement, the minority has a right to offer motions to instruct, which become politically motivate bombs to throw up on the House floor," he told reporters at the time. "So to be frank with all of you, we're following what I would describe as regular order."
Pelosi responded Saturday with charges that Boehner is trying to write his own set of rules.
"Well to be frank with him, the regular order is not how he defines it; it is what the regular order is," she said.
"In public and otherwise, the Speaker has said that his concern is the motion to instruct," Pelosi added. "Today, we standing here are making an unprecedented offer by the minority to the majority, to the Speaker of the House: If you will agree to pass a short-term bill and move the conference to the final budget discussion for this fiscal year, we will not offer any motions to instruct."
The back-and-forth arrived on the fifth day of the government shutdown, just moments after the House unanimously passed legislation ensuring that furloughed federal workers, including congressional staff, would receive back pay. The Senate is expected to approve the measure at a later date.
GOP leaders were quick to use the vote to hammer Democrats for supporting the back-pay measure while opposing a long list of piecemeal spending bills earlier in the week, including a proposal to fund veterans programs.
“With the unanimous vote we just saw for federal employees, if it’s so important to ease the pain for them — what about the vets?" House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) asked reporters in the Capitol after Saturday's vote.
"Do the Democrats not feel it’s important to make sure the pain is eased on them?"
Behind President Obama, Democrats in both chambers have largely opposed the Republicans' piece-by-piece approach, arguing that Congress should put all government employees back to work, rather than "picking winners and losers."
"Who thinks any one of our veterans … wants to be part of the Republican gimmick of shutting down government where they are spared as veterans … while America's infants and children suffer the consequences?" Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Saturday.
"I don't think there's a veteran in American who would say, 'Yeah, take care of me, and leave our children behind.' But that's the gimmick that's being played today."
Democratic leaders also took aim at the Republicans for staging a rare Saturday vote, the second in as many weeks. They characterized the vote as a cynical attempt by GOP leaders to feign action on the shutdown while effectively getting nothing done.
"It is a recognition of the disgust that the American people feel for the failure to take an action that would have taken five minutes on Sept. 30," said Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip. "It is the appearance of action, without the substance of action."
Many House lawmakers rushed out of the Capitol to catch flights home after Saturday's votes. At the House steps, they were met by a young boy with a sign: "Stop acting like children."
The House is scheduled to reconvene Monday.