Workers protest as gov't shutdown looms

April 7, 2011 3:17:19 PM PDT
Congressional leaders from both parties held press conferences Thursday blaming each other for the budget battle in Washington D.C.

Some experts say what is playing out in public is all about politicians positioning themselves for the next election.

Federal workers in Chicago say it is time to stop playing games and keep the government open.

A few dozen federal workers prepared for the potential government shutdown with a protest in the Loop. They chanted their concerns over furloughs and voiced their opinions about who is to blame.

"I think it always goes back to Obama," federal employee Deborah Dize told ABC7.

"Mainly the Republicans," said another protester.

"I think both parties are pretty pathetic," another worker remarked.

"Everybody should compromise," said, T. Stewart, a federal employee.

Democrats say they did compromise with $30 billion worth of cuts to programs they support, but with a huge deficit, it is not enough for Republicans.

"What happened is more extreme budget cutters on the Republican side said, 'Hey, if the Democrats are willing to agree with this, we're not negotiating hard enough and we need to ask for more,' " said Wayne Steger, chair of DePaul University's Political Science Department.

Steger says the back-and-forth between the political parties over the budget is all about next year's primary season.

"The decision now about how people vote on this affects whether Republicans are going to be challenged in their primary, not in the fall of 2011 but in January to June of 2012," Steger said.

Democrats say the budget fight has become more about ideology than numbers. They say Republicans are concerned about what the tea party wants in the budget.

The last government shutdown during the Clinton administration helped the president. Some experts predict the same this time around.

"It would hurt the Republicans, because you don't miss something until it's lost, and once you lose it, you're going to blame the folks you see as keeping it from you," said Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, political science professor, Northwestern University.

Many of the government workers marching in Chicago say both parties are too busy thinking about politics over what protesters say should really be cut.

"I think that you have to look at where the largest pots of money go, and it's the military, and I think people just didn't look there, and yet we spend more than any other country," said Dize.

"Congress should give something up. What are they going to give up?" said Stewart.

Agency and department heads have been notifying their employees Thursday about the shutdown plans. And while there have been many comparisons to the last government shut down during the Clinton administration, political science experts say what makes this different is technology. Much of the government is automated; the shutdown affects fewer people than it did in the 1990s.