White House spokesperson Eric Schultz criticized Republicans in both houses of Congress during Friday's press briefing for not passing a continuing resolution to keep the government from shutting down.
Associated Press reporter Darlene Superville asked Schultz what guidance the White House is giving to departments and agencies if there is a government shutdown.
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Schultz immediately criticized Republicans, blaming them for the potential shutdown.
"We should just take a step back and remember that the fact that we are even talking about this is an indication of the failure of Republicans to govern," Schultz said. "They come to Washington and they hold majorities in both houses of Congress, and they come to Washington with a basic responsibility. At the top of that list is funding the government."
Schultz went on to say that Superville's question is an indication that Republicans have "failed to fulfill" their basic responsibilities of governing. While Schultz said he believes that Republicans will pass a continuing resolution, an appropriations bill, by the Friday at midnight deadline, he added that Democrats are concerned about multiple provisions related to funding for retired coal workers and the water system in Flint, Michigan.
"These are coal miners who work for decades in treacherous conditions and who earn these benefits. Unfortunately the proposal that the Republicans are floating only takes care of them for a few months. We believe that's not right," Schultz said.
Schultz added that Republicans are playing games with Flint and demagoguing the issue instead of providing the city with the necessary funding.
Republicans in Congress disagree that they are to blame for a potential government shutdown. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) says that Democrats need to take the bill that is on the table now to pass, Politico reported Friday.
[Sen. Joe] Manchin insists that Democrats will settle for nothing less than a year-long extension of health-care benefits for those miners. But McConnell told Politico they will have to settle for what they have now and continue the fight in 2017.
"The difficulty here is they are having a hard time taking yes for an answer. I represent a lot of coal miners, I'm concerned about this issue. I had hoped we'd get a year. But we've got until the end of April to get at it again," McConnell said in an interview on Friday–a point he stressed on the Senate floor later that morning.
Asked if the government would shut down, the GOP leader replied: "I certainly hope not. There's no reason for it."
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) said on Friday morning he is not going to whip his members to vote against the spending bill, but would instead defer to rank-and-file Democrats to determine whether McConnell's commitment to coal miners' benefits in 2017 would be enough to avert a shutdown.
Federal agencies began preparing for a potential shutdown on Friday afternoon, a White House Office of Management and Budget spokesperson told Politico.
"At this time, prudent management requires that the government plan for the possibility of a lapse and OMB is working with agencies to take appropriate action," an OMB spokesperson said. "It is our hope that this work will ultimately be unnecessary and that there will be no lapse in appropriations."