WASHINGTON (AP) – Its approval ratings scraping bottom, Congress took no discernible steps Wednesday to end the 9-day partial government shutdown or to head off a threatened default by the national Treasury.
Instead, the House passed legislation that the Obama administration already had rendered unnecessary, while Speaker John Boehner and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi met face-to-face – and promptly disagreed even about which side had requested the get-together.
Across the Capitol, the Senate marked time under 18th century rules, focusing its attention on a test vote – next weekend – on a $1 trillion increase in the debt limit to avert a default.
“Enough is enough,” said Barry Black, the Senate chaplain who has delivered a series of pointed sermonettes in recent days as lawmakers careen from crisis to crisis.
With Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on tap to testify before lawmakers on Thursday, officials said he was expected to reiterate that Congress needed to raise the government’s borrowing limit by Oct. 17 to be sure of preventing default.
Despite warnings from leaders of both political parties that a financial default could plunge the economy into recession, cause interest rates to rise and home values to plummet, one Republican lawmaker, Rep. Mo Brooks of Ala., said a default wouldn’t be the worst calamity to befall the country.
“Insolvency and bankruptcy” would be worse, he said, warning that that would be the result of yet another increase in the debt limit without attaching measures to bring down the federal budget deficit.
The partial shutdown ground on, although an Associated Press-GfK poll suggested the impact was anything but uniform. Only 17 percent of those polled said they or their households had experienced any impact, while 81 percent said they had not.
Who’s fault? Some 62 percent said Republicans were mostly or entirely to blame for the partial shutdown, which began on Oct. 8, while 49 percent said as much for President Barack Obama.
There was widespread agreement on one point. The country is widely dissatisfied with elected lawmakers.
A new Gallup poll put approval for Congress at 11 percent, a mere one in every nine adults. The AP-GfK survey made it 5 percent approval – and only 3 percent among independents, whose votes are the main prize in next fall’s midterm elections. Nationally, a whopping 83 percent of adults disapprove of Congress’ actions.
Inside the Capitol, neither private meetings nor public votes offered any hint of progress toward ending the latest gridlock.
Republicans are seeking negotiations on budget, health care, and other issues as the price for reopening the government and raising the debt limit. Obama and Democrats say no talks unless legislation is first passed.