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SHORT TEMPERS AMID STANDOFF

The foul mood of lawmakers reflects their failure to find a solution to the fiscal crisis.

Washington Post

WASHINGTON - Even for a Congress where griping is endemic and insults routine, spirits were especially dark Saturday.

For a legislative body that takes six weeks for its August break, the third consecutive working Saturday without a solution to the crisis meant short tempers and foul moods.

Most vocal in their bitterness were House Republicans, who voted midday and then left Washington until Monday, sputtering as they went that President Barack Obama had halted talks with their leaders in favor of negotiating with Senate Republicans - and even angrier that their Senate colleagues seemed receptive to the president's overture.

"They're trying to cut the House out, and trying to jam us with the Senate. We're not going to roll over and take that," said House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., not generally considered one of the House's bomb-throwers, advised Republicans in the Senate to "grow a backbone and stand up with the House Republicans, like they said they were going to."

Senate Republicans were likewise fed up with their House colleagues, for refusing to accept that they will not win major changes to the federal health care law and that their party's leverage only decreases as the shutdown drags and default approaches.

"Our friends in the House apparently can't muster the votes to send something over here to open up the government, so it's dysfunction at every level," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Several rounds of past budget fights have ended with Senate Republicans forging agreement with Senate Democrats and then shoving it over to the House to be adopted on a bipartisan vote, over the objections of the GOP's most conservative members.

Republicans in both chambers appeared to be bracing for a repeat of that outcome, which would solve the current crisis but only deepen mistrust between Republicans in the Senate and in the House.

But the ill will was broadly shared.

In the House, a Republican aide accused a leading Democrat of a physical confrontation with another GOP aide on the floor of the House. The congressman acknowledged a heated exchange but denied jabbing the man in the chest.

In the Senate, a bipartisan proposal to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling written by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, provided a glimmer of hope Friday. It was declared dead a day later.

Senate Democrats emerged grim-faced from a 90-minute, closed-door meeting where leaders briefed them on nascent talks under way between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in place of the Collins proposal, which ran aground amid Democratic opposition.

Talks were expected to continue in the Senate, where several members expressed hope that a breakthrough was not far off - always darkest before the dawn, and all that.

"There's good discussion going," said Sen. Timothy Kaine, D-Va., generally one of the chamber's sunniest members. "I see us getting there, in fits and starts."

But, he conceded: "I think people are pretty tired and haggard."

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