WASHINGTON — Democratic National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz says Congress is "hurtling" toward a fiscal crisis in the next few weeks over financing the government and raising the debt ceiling.
The Republicans who control the House of Representatives have "been engaged in an internecine battle and an internal civil war, and the Tea Party has won," the Florida congresswoman said in an interview with Capital Download, USA TODAY's weekly newsmaker series. "It's evident that we're headed toward government shutdown or a default, one or the other. It's kind of like deciding which car you're going to take."
The so-called continuing resolution to finance governmental operations starting Oct. 1 has become entangled in demands by some Republicans that it include a provision cutting funding for implementation of the Affordable Care Act, an idea flatly rejected by the White House and the Democrats who control the Senate. The initial House vote on the measure is expected Friday.
Later in October, Congress will face an urgent request by the Treasury Department to raise the debt limit or risk default.
Wasserman Schultz says a shutdown would be bad for the country and the economy — but it might be politically good for Democrats. "If the government shuts down, it will be the Republicans that caused it," she said.
Does she ever feel a little sorry for the beleaguered House speaker, John Boehner?
"You know, I don't feel sorry for him," she said, saying he "signed up for this job." If he was willing to rely on Democratic votes to pass the budget bill — rather than insisting on getting a majority of Republican votes — "I'm pretty confident we could actually find a compromise and a way out of this." Instead, "John Boehner has stopped leading and is letting the tail wag the dog, with the Tea Party controlling the direction they'll go."
Wasserman Schultz, 46, was relentlessly on message as she was interviewed in her DNC office, which sports a view of the Capitol and is scattered with photographs of her husband and three children. When she succeeded Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as head of the DNC two years ago, the office featured brown walls. She had them painted two shades of pink "to show there was a woman in charge."
The DNC headquarters is just a little over a mile north of the Washington Navy Yard, site of Monday's shooting rampage. She "sadly" agreed with the conventional wisdom that there was no prospect of passing tighter gun laws in the wake of the incident, which killed a dozen victims.
"You have too many Republican members of Congress who … are petrified of being challenged by the NRA (National Rifle Association) and having their resources poured in against them in re-election," she said. "They have essentially ceded their own vote on common-sense gun-safety laws to the NRA."
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