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November 24, 2014

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GOP’s piecemeal plan to fund some government functions fails in House

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Matt Rourke / AP

Furloughed federal employes demonstrate in view of a shuttered Independence Hall at Independence National Historical Park Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, in Philadelphia. Congress plunged the nation into a partial government shutdown Tuesday as a long-running dispute over President Barack Obama’s health care law stalled a temporary funding bill, forcing about 800, 000 federal workers off the job and suspending most non-essential federal programs and services.

Government Shutdown

Resa Mestel, of New York, reacts after finding the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville, N.C.,   closed due to the government shutdown Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. In the wake of a partial shutdown of the U.S. government, the National Park Service began closing down parks and other facilities until federal funding is restored. Launch slideshow »

The shutdown will go on for at least another day after the House of Representatives came up empty on an effort to get three mini-spending bills endorsed and sent to the Senate.

House lawmakers failed to come up with the two-thirds majority that would have been necessary to greenlight the measures to refund national parks, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and all of the District of Columbia’s government functions.

The House adopted the tactic of funding the government in very narrow chunks after the government shutdown had already gone into effect Tuesday, as a way of answering blame that Democrats had been lobbing at Republicans over the weekend.

Leading Democrats, including President Barack Obama, had accused Republicans of being responsible for shuttering national parks, and keeping veterans from accessing key services.

So Republicans in the House decided to call their bluff, and give them an opportunity to vote for those programs piecemeal.

Some House Democrats took the bait. In a sense, it was a free vote for many of them: Prior to the start of the vote, Sen. Harry Reid had already pledged to kill any narrow funding measure that might emerge from the House Tuesday night.

“They are focusing on trying to cherrypick some of the few parts of government that they like,” Reid said Tuesday night. “If they think they’re going to come and nitpick us on this it won’t work.”

Nonetheless, Nevada’s Democratic Reps. Dina Titus and Steven Horsford held the party line, voting against each measure, while Nevada’s Republican Reps. Joe Heck and Mark Amodei voted in favor of them.

The failed votes do not, however, render the House’s efforts dead. House leaders can resurrect these measures on Wednesday under what is called a “rule” — an intermediary procedural step that will allow the House to pass these bills by their usual simple majority, instead of two-thirds majority that they failed to procure Tuesday night.

Still, Democrats are likely to point to Tuesday night’s unsuccessful votes as evidence that House Republican leaders’ bargaining tactics are unreasonable.

But Republicans are likely to use Tuesday night’s vote to try to rattle the Democrats as well — at least those who voted against funding programs for veterans, keeping national parks open, and keeping basic services in the nation’s capital humming to take the stand that Congress should not be picking winners and losers of a federal government shutdown.

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