Partisan rancor is in abundant supply on Capitol Hill as Congress grapples with the prospect of a government shutdown and a credit default.
Vermont’s two senators gave exasperated speeches about the situation on the Senate floor Tuesday.
To avoid a shutdown, the Senate and House have to agree on a budget bill. The House passed a bill that would temporarily maintain government funding, but it also cuts funding for the Affordable Care Act. The Senate is expected to reject that proposal. Beyond the threat of a shutdown, some Republicans have also sought to make raising the debt ceiling contingent on entitlement cuts and an Obamacare rollback.
The full text of Sen. Patrick Leahy’s speech is available here, but the senator went off-script several times, scolding Republicans for bringing Congress to an impasse.
“I remember that Bill Murray movie ‘Groundhog Day,’” Leahy began. “Wonderful movie. Farcical, but nowhere near as farcical as the Groundhog Day we have here in Congress.”
Leahy also described his grandchildren as more magnanimous than congressional Republicans. “I love my grandchildren. They range from 5 to 15 … They sometimes have little squabbles, but they work it out. This [Congress] is a playground that would be a terrible example to children in a schoolyard.”
The senior senator accused a “tiny minority” of taking part in political antics to attract television time. “Stop running to the cameras, and giving little soundbites,” he said.
Sanders focused his ire on Texas Republicans, in particular. He read from the state’s 2012 party platform, describing the document as a blueprint for the “rightwing extremist” direction in which the national party is headed.
Republicans’ efforts to cut food stamps and defund the Affordable Care Act are just “the beginning of the game,” Sanders said.
“All of these issues are related to something that is much, much larger and that is the transformation of American society in a radically different way than it is today,” Sanders said. “And what my Republican colleagues, almost without exception, want to do now is take us back to the 1920s where working people had virtually no protection on the job at all.”
One by one, he railed against other proposals outlined in the document, which ranged from shutting down the Environmental Protection Agency to repealing the minimum wage.
Later that afternoon, Sen. Ted Cruz, a member of the cadre of Texas Republicans, took to the floor, vowing to speak against the Affordable Care Act until he could no longer stand.