By Julian Pecquet and Molly K. Hooper - 09/29/13 08:22 PM EDT
Twenty conservative House Republicans assembled in front of the locked Senate doors Sunday to slam Democratic obstructionism as the federal government hurtles toward a shutdown.
Trading in colorful metaphors just hours after sending a spending bill to the Senate, the conservative group, led by Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), accused Democrats of refusing to negotiate. The Senate and President Obama have vowed to reject the Republican's effort to delay the president's healthcare law by one year.
“I urge the Senate to come back,” second-term Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) said to shouts of "Amen."
“I'm glad now to invite to the microphone the distinguished majority leader in the Senate, Harry Reid,” he added to loud laughs from his colleagues. “Oh, I'm sorry, Harry's not here today. Maybe he'll show up later.”
Football in hand, Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) accused Democrats of deliberately “running out the clock.” He claimed to have been told by “high-level Democrats in town” that their plan has long been to force a government shutdown and blame it on Republicans.
“This is the old football strategy: when you get to where you want to be in a football game, you run out the clock because you think you like where you are,” he said. “That’s exactly what’s going on here. If they really cared if this government shutdown would shut down or not, they’d be here.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) accused Democrats of taking a “lazy break until 2 o'clock on Monday.”
He said Democrats' mantra that the health bill is the law would backfire because the debt ceiling is too, and that will get “shoved back in [their] face” unless Democrats are ready to negotiate on the spending bill.
And Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) challenged reporters to call senators in their Washington homes, saying most of them probably never left for their districts and could vote very quickly.
Earlier in the day, a number of high-ranking Democrats took to the airwaves to hammer a message that the Republicans are the ones employing a “government shutdown strategy.”
The No. 2-ranking Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) charged his GOP colleagues with being “hell-bent” on employing a government shutdown.
Still, Senate leaders decided not to call the upper chamber back to Washington until 2 p.m. Monday, 10 hours before the government will shut down if Congress and the president fail to reach an agreement on the short-term funding bill.
“Senate, get on back to town,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) demanded at the hastily called press conference.
With senators back in their districts or hunkered down in their Washington homes, House Republicans were largely able to control the message. A Washington, D.C., resident on her way home briefly interrupted the press conference with shouts that Republicans were disingenuous about wanting to keep the government open and that voters had voted to uphold the health law.
“Obama was elected,” the woman said. “Not you.”
The amused Republicans pointed out that they too were elected. They said voters had chosen a divided government and that Obama and Senate Democrats should come to the negotiating table.
Recent polling shows that a majority of Americans would blame Republicans for a potential government shutdown — a factor that could hurt the GOP in the voting booth next year.
Forty-four percent of individuals said they would blame Republicans if the government shuts down on Oct. 1, according to a CBS/New York Times poll, while 35 percent of respondents would blame President Obama and congressional Democrats. The poll, conducted Sept. 19-23 among 1,014 adults nationwide, has a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.
—This report was updated at 5:35 p.m.