The war of words over a possible government shutdown escalated sharply Thursday afternoon, even as polls suggest voters are increasingly angry over the political games that are standing in the way of budget cuts and a deal to fund federal operations.
Members of both parties jeered each other on the floor of the House Thursday, as congressional decorum appeared to break down. At one point Democrats chanted “Bush, Bush, Bush!” in an effort to blame the nations budget woes on former President George W. Bush.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., reminded colleagues: “We are trying to do the business of the American people. We do not want to shut the government down. We don’t accept the status quo. We don’t want to bankrupt this nation. We believe there is a fiscal crisis demanding urgent action.”
House Speaker John Boehner later remarked that the two sides appear further apart than they were 24 hours ago.
Pollsters say voters appear to be increasingly incensed at the political impasse that threatens the normal functions of government. A Rasmussen Reports poll Thursday showed that 48 percent of voters now say their views are closer to the tea party than to members of Congress.
Pollster Scott Rasmussen tells Newsmax that identification with the tea party actually reflects an extraordinary level of frustration over the inability of Congress and both parties to manage the nation's business.
“There is a large backlash building against both parties for their failure to grapple with larger budget issues.”
A recent study by Harvard University professor Gary King helps illuminate why the public's patience seems to be running out. King recently studied more than 64,000 news releases from U.S. senators from 2005 to 2007.
His conclusion, as reported by The Washington Post: Members of Congress spend 27 percent of their time taunting those on the other side of the aisle.
“The entire government may go bankrupt, I guess," he said. ”This week, right? We probably want our representatives to be listening to each other rather than calling each other names,” he told the Post.
Of greatest concern to the White House, perhaps: A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll that shows nearly two-thirds of Americans, 63 percent, now believe the nation is one the wrong track. That compares to 28 percent who believe the country is headed in the right direction. Democratic pollster Peter Hart told MSNBC the huge negative rating, which shows a sharp slide since January, is a “very dark cloud” over the Obama White House.
“Clearly both sides are to blame,“ Democratic pollster and Fox News contributor Doug Schoen tells Newsmax. “The American people want compromise and conciliation, not finger pointing and division.
“President Obama needs to take responsibility for resolving the nation's short term and long term fiscal problems, ” Schoen added. “So far he's ducked and stayed out of the line of fire. Can't do that forever.”
The House at least has passed a budget proposal. The Senate, run by Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, has yet to take action. Reid on Thursday tried once again to lay the blame for the stalemate at the feet of Republicans.
"If this government shuts down, and it looks like it's headed in that direction, it's going to be based on my friends in the House of Representatives ... focusing on ideological matters that have nothing to do with funding this government," charged Reid. And as for a GOP proposal that would keep the government operational for another week in return for $12 billion in budget cuts, Reid dismissed that offer as a "fantasy.”
Conservative pollster KellyAnne Conway of The Polling Company defends Republicans in refusing to give in on spending cuts.
"The elections were only five months ago so the same demand to cut spending and tame the deficit remains. The Republicans, especially the conservatives, are so far doing that — refusing to capitulate to the shave at the edges offer by the White House … and even unveiling a budget for next year."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., meanwhile, pointed the finger at Democrats Thursday.
"If a shutdown does occur, our Democratic friends will have no one to blame but themselves," he said, adding, "This is the only proposal on the table that will keep the government open."
Pollster John Zogby tells Newsmax that rather than getting even more angry, voters may react by throwing up their hands and "by simply giving up."
"There was anger in 2008 and there was certainly anger in 2010. But when anger leads to inaction … people may just say the process is sick. "
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