PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

House Votes To Give Back Pay To Furloughed Feds


Christina Bellantoni is the politics editor for "PBS NewsHour." She joins us to talk about the latest from Washington. Christina, welcome.

CHRISTINA BELLANTONI: Thanks for having me.

RATH: So first, let's talk about how this is playing out politically. There's been a lot of talk about who's to blame for the shutdown. Polls are showing most Americans blame the Republicans in the House. But do you think that's going to continue, if the shutdown drags on?

BELLANTONI: Everything that we've learned historically about shutdowns is that the longer it happens, the more people generally blame Washington. But overall, as you point out, the polls do show that Republicans are taking the blame. And then the president has this enormous bully pulpit, so he's able to really pin them and say they're the ones who are stopping the government funding from going on. And the Democrats - across the board - are seeing enormous fundraising right now. They're getting all kinds of online fundraising. The Democratic National Committee raised $1 million just in one night of the shutdown.

RATH: Wow. So this is a tool. Obviously, it's being used right now by Tea Party Republicans. But it could be used by the other side. First off, how do we get to the situation where this tool is actually being used in this way, and how can we get out of it?

BELLANTONI: Well, one way is because people don't pay attention to their politics, and what's happening behind the scenes, as policy is set. And you've had really over the last, I'd say, 10 years or so, there's been this sort of back and forth - we're not going to give on anything. People dig in. So to get attention out there in the country, you have to be extreme. I mean, think about the beginning of the health care debate. A member of Congress shouts at the president, you lie. That was Republican Congressman Joe Wilson, of South Carolina - right?

He raised so much money off of that, and he became this sort of hero and also, a villain for the left. The left raised plenty of money on him. And so it started to send this signal that extreme measures, those things get attention. And then you have to start to think about the philosophy here. I mean, these are - they seem very shallow sometimes, and there's a lot of name-calling. But these are deep philosophical disagreements about what the size of government should be. Instead of trying to come to some sort of middle ground on that, you're just seeing these dug-in sides. And that creates the short-term budgeting.

RATH: It just looks so bleak. And I think for a lot of people watching the stalemate from a distance, it just feels like there's no way out. We have the president and Democrats, they won't negotiate on a health care law till the Republicans pass a spending bill. And on the other side, the Republicans won't pass a bill until the Democrats negotiate. Where do we go?

BELLANTONI: Yeah. Well, the way - what probably will happen is John Boehner's going to have to make a choice. He might have to defy the majority of his Republican Party, and put something on the floor that he knows the Democrats would vote for. But in the meantime, it's a lot of nastiness, it's a lot of bitter rhetoric - and not a lot of talking.

You know, when President Reagan and Tip O'Neill were even, you know, bitter political rivals, they were still talking every single day even when they went through several government shutdowns over spending issues.

RATH: Christina Bellantoni is the politics editor for the PBS NewsHour. She joined us from the epicenter of the shutdown, Washington. Thank you, Christina.

BELLANTONI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.