As the federal government shutdown headed into its fourth day, Democrats and Republicans continued their finger-pointing at each other, but no deal was yet in sight.
President Obama on Oct. 3 traveled to a construction company in a Washington, D.C., suburb to criticize House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for not bringing a Senate-passed stopgap spending bill to the House floor for a vote. Boehner called on congressional Democrats to open talks on ending the shutdown.
Obama, speaking at the Rockville, Md., headquarters of roadbuilder M. Luis Construction Co., said the Oct. 1 furloughs of an estimated 800,000 federal workers were caused by "a reckless Republican shutdown in Washington."
With the company's heavy construction equipment as a backdrop, the president singled out Boehner, saying "the one thing that is keeping the government shut down...is that Speaker John Boehner won't even let the bill get a yes or no vote."
The previous evening, Obama called House and Senate leaders to the White House for a meeting on the shutdown, but, as expected, it produced no agreement.
One attendee, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, "The president basically called us down there to tell us he's not interested in negotiating."
Boehner, who also was at the meeting, said, "It's time for the president and Senate Democrats to come to the negotiating table and drop their my-way-or-the-highway approach that gave us this shutdown."
Company officials from M. Luis Construction didn't speak at the Oct. 3 event. In fact, federal highway aid is one of the few federal spending programs that is largely exempt from the Oct. 1 spending cutoff The reason: most federal road and bridge dollars come from the Highway Trust Fund, not the general fund. (See ENR story on shutdown impact on contracts.)
Still, one budget account that Obama did mention was the Small Business Administration's loan program—the SBA's acting chief was in the Rockville audience. Obama said SBA provides $1 billion in loans per month to small companies and added that after the funding cutoff, the agency's loans "can't be processed because there's nobody to process them."
Obama noted that M. Luis Construction—which he described as a $60-million firm with approximately 250 employees—benefited from a loan through the 2010 Small Business Jobs Act.
The House, under Boehner, has passed several targeted spending bills, each aimed at ending the shutdown at a particular agency, including the National Institutes of Health and National Park Service. But Senate Democrats have rejected what Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) termed a "pick and choose" approach.