WASHINGTON -- House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday if Congress fails to stave off a shutdown, it will be because a faction of Republicans decided to take the government "hostage."
The likelihood of leaders in both the House and Senate missing the Sept. 30 deadline to fund the government is looking more and more inevitable. Congress returned from summer recess on Tuesday, but lawmakers plan to tackle a resolution on the administration's Iran nuclear deal first, despite the looming cliff.
Hoyer told reporters that he hopes leaders will be able to come to an agreement on a temporary continuing resolution to fund the government through Oct. 15, while they hammer out a long-term solution.
Still, a handful of Republicans in the House have vowed to reject any agreement that continues to fund the family planning provider Planned Parenthood. Complicating matters further, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is facing a coup from conservatives within his caucus who have threatened to try and oust him as speaker.
Pressed on whether these issues will cause the House to stumble into a shutdown, Hoyer said "no."
"I don't think there has been any surprise from the last 90 to 120 days of the problem that we are confronting," Hoyer said. "If we shut down government, it will be because you have willful Republicans who are prepared to take the government hostage to attain their ends. It will not be a stumble; it will be a considered objective, and a number of them have said so publicly. That is not John Boehner's objective."
Both Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have said they want to negotiate with Democrats and prevent a shutdown, but efforts to defund Planned Parenthood could get in the way.
Hoyer admitted the "job is made much more difficult by internecine warfare within the Republican Party. Everybody sees how deeply divided the Republican Party is -- here in Congress and the presidential race."
He added that the majority of Democrats and Republicans in the House want to avoid a government shutdown and will have to "confront the same kind of willful disregard for responsible government."
Still, he doesn't expect a "major" agreement in the next seven days -- the amount of time Hoyer estimates Congress will have to craft a short-term solution, given a busy September schedule that includes debate on the Iran deal and a visit from Pope Francis.
CORRECTION: This story previously misstated that a temporary continuing resolution would fund the government through Oct. 1. In fact, it would provide funds until Oct. 15.