EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

World/National News

October 9, 2013

Shutdown-Debt fight: There's talk about talks

(Continued)

It was unclear whether Senate Republicans would slow progress of the bill, which was shorn of all items that many GOP lawmakers favor to reduce deficits or delay the health overhaul, which takes effect more fully on Jan. 1.

Inside the Capitol, the threat of a default overshadowed the continuing partial government shutdown, in its eighth day with little or no talk of an immediate end. An estimated 450,000 federal workers are idled at agencies responsible for items as diverse as food inspection and national parks, although all employees are eventually expected to receive full back pay.

In the House, majority Republicans announced plans to pass legislation reopening Head Start, the pre-school program for disadvantaged children. It is the latest in a string of bills to end the shutdown in one corner of government or another in hopes of forcing Democrats to abandon their own demands for a full reopening of the federal establishment.

Republicans also announced they would vote to make sure federal workers on the job don’t miss their next regularly scheduled paycheck on Oct. 15.

In a potentially more significant political development, a third vote was expected on legislation to create a House-Senate working group on deficit reduction and economic growth. The 20-member panel would be empowered to recommend steps to raise the debt limit and reduce spending, including in so-called direct spending programs — a definition that appears broad enough to encompass benefit programs like Medicare and Social Security as well as the health care law that Republicans oppose.

The measure does not contain any provision to end the shutdown or raise the debt limit, although it could be amended to include them at a later date if a compromise emerges.

The shutdown began more than a week ago after Obama and Senate Democrats rejected Republican demands to defund “Obamacare,” then to delay it, and finally to force a one-year delay in the requirement for individuals to purchase health care coverage or face a financial penalty.

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