Politics & Government

Barr, McConnell indicate no change in shutdown strategy

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr of Lexington represents Kentucky's 6th District.
U.S. Rep. Andy Barr of Lexington represents Kentucky's 6th District.

WASHINGTON — The stalemate between Republicans and Democrats over health care and the budget showed no signs of ending Tuesday as Kentucky Republicans insisted nothing will change until President Barack Obama is willing to compromise.

As Obama made clear through the day that he will not negotiate over the looming debt limit or any budget talks that include changes to his health care law, Republicans like U.S. Rep. Andy Barr warned that nothing will change until Obama changes his tune.

"Nothing will happen if the president refuses to negotiate," Barr told the Herald-Leader Tuesday.

Blasting the refusal by Democrats to compromise on health care, Barr called the president's refusal "childish and immature."

"That is an irresponsible, intransigent position to take," the congressman said.

Barr said he is keeping in touch with constituents through tele-town hall meetings, and what he's hearing is that Kentuckians want both sides to negotiate.

"The American people are frustrated, and they're angry that politicians in Washington won't even talk to each other," Barr said. "I share that frustration and anger."

Barr's comments were echoed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a floor speech in the U.S. Senate.

"This is not 2009 and 2010 when our friends on the other side had a total hammer lock on all the government," McConnell said. "We now have divided government. It means we have to talk to each other and get to an outcome."

Obama showed no signs of giving in, however, spending more than an hour in the White House briefing room telling reporters that he is willing to negotiate on a wide range of issues but not under the threats of default and delaying health care that Republicans continued to insist on Tuesday.

Obama offered several warnings about the ongoing effects of the shutdown and the consequences if the country defaults if the debt ceiling is not lifted by Oct. 17.

Barr said that on both issues, he and the president agree that the shutdown needs to end and the U.S. needs to pay its bills.

But Barr said that as of now there is only one way to make sure both happen.

"The president is going to have to talk to House Republicans," the congressman said. "He doesn't control all of the government."

Barr again defended Republican insistence on including the health care law in budget negotiations, arguing that "Obamacare is fundamentally connected to spending and debt."

"It's Congress's constitutional duty to constantly scrutinize federal spending," Barr said. "Obamacare is federal spending."

Barr was adamant that he is hearing from constituents that Kentuckians don't want him to give up on his fight against the health care law as Washington looks for ways to end the shutdown.

"This is what my constituents have asked me to do," Barr said. "This is exactly what they've asked me to do."

Also on Tuesday, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) began a shutdown-focused ad campaign in Kentucky aimed at tarnishing McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul.

The paid media campaign from national Democrats that launched Tuesday includes robocalls and online ads targeting Kentucky voters through Twitter and Google.

"The paid media campaign will highlight the impact of the GOP's shutdown on the home state of McConnell and Paul," the DNC said in a statement.

Kentucky's two senators are not alone in being targeted. The DNC said that Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, are also on the list.