On Monday, Congress unanimously agreed to pass a standalone measure to pay the troops during the partial government shutdown, and President Obama signed the bill into law. But on Thursday morning, Senate majority leader Harry Reid blocked votes on House-passed bills to fund veterans, the military reserves and National Guard, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and national memorials.
As Politico reported Thursday, during the 1995 government shutdown congressional Republicans and President Bill Clinton were able to agree to a "stopgap bill to assure funding for veterans, welfare recipients and the District of Columbia."
Why won't Senate Democrats and President Obama agree now to any more stopgap funding bills?
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York told THE WEEKLY STANDARD following a noon press conference Thursday that in 1995 "it was a different world." Why is that? "Because we have a Tea Party," Schumer said without elaborating as he walked away.
On Wednesday, Senate majority leader Harry Reid said Congress "can't pick and choose" between funding the NIH, which includes programs treating children with cancer, and other government functions, like an Air Force base in his home state of Nevada.
At a Thursday press conference, Reid dodged a question when asked why he was willing to pass the standalone troop-funding bill on Monday but not the other measures. "Because by that time we hadn't had all this silliness back and forth with the House. We thought that would end it. It didn't," Reid said.
So far, the Senate's Democratic caucus has remained united. Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana is facing reelection in 2014, but she isn't breaking from her party on the stopgap funding bills. Asked Thursday morning at a press conference if she would vote for the NIH or veterans affairs bills, Landrieu told THE WEEKLY STANDARD, "I would not."
"This cannot be done by piecemeal and should not be done by piecemeal. What part is more important than the next?" Landrieu said.
"Many of us could argue while those might be important issues, and they are, what's more important than millions of small businesses who undergird the entire economy of the United States?" Landrieu asked, flanked by a group of small business owners.
Landrieu said that "the Tea Party has to understand that they cannot hold government and our private partners--which are many from big companies like Boeing and Lockheed to small companies that are represented here--hostage over their inability to get a law that they don't like amended."
"It is my hope--my hope--that many brave men and women in the Republican party will stand up and close this Tea Party down," Landrieu said.