Oct. 01--RICHMOND -- Ten hours and counting into a federal government shutdown, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-7th, today pushed for negotiations between the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to break the gridlock, but chances appear slim.
After days of proposals bouncing between the two chambers, the House has sought a conference with the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has reportedly said he would reject that request.
"I just think that we need to talk. None of us want to be here and the only way to resolve this is to sit down and talk and to iron out the differences," Cantor said in an interview. "I don't think that there is any other way to do this other than to sit down and talk."
The latest proposal that the House put forth -- and the Senate rejected -- carried a one-year delay of the requirement that individuals buy health insurance as part of the federal health care law and would stop federal contributions for members of Congress and others.
After the House vote on that proposal last night, Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, D-3rd, a staunch supporter of the health care law, said in a statement: "Once again Republicans are attempting to hold the government hostage in order to extract passage of unrelated legislation."
"Obamacare will continue even if the government is shut down," he said. "The federal government should stay open, and it must be made clear to Tea Party Republicans that we will not respond to temper tantrums in which they threaten to shut down the government if they don't get what they want."
Cantor has said regarding that House proposal, that the debate hinges on trying to stop the administration from carving out "special treatment" for members of Congress or for big business.
"The American people did elect this president, but the American people also elected a Republican Congress," Cantor said today. "So we have a divided government because the American people voted that way. They expect us to sit down and work things out and work together."
As for whether the shutdown could inflict damage on his party -- a new Quinnipiac University poll shows American voters oppose 72-22 percent Congress shutting down the government to block implementation of the health care law -- Cantor said that's not the focus of working people.
The health care law isn't wildly popular with American voters either, and the poll shows 45 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed.
"I don't think that the working moms and dads and families in Richmond are waking up thinking about the Republican Party, the Democrat Party, they're worried about their financial security, their health care security and frankly our nation's security," Cantor said.
"We're trying to focus on resolving those questions so that we can see a situation where both sides can work these things out."
(c)2013 the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Va.)
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
Original headline: Cantor on shutdown: 'We need to talk'
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