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In Washington budget war, hype and hyperbole seize the floor

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks to the press after leaving the Senate Chamber after a marathon attack on "Obamacare," at the U.S. Capito
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) speaks to the press after leaving the Senate Chamber after a marathon attack on "Obamacare," at the U.S. Capito

By Fred Barbash

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - To those not watching the Capitol Hill debate over funding the government and Obamacare: You don't know what you're missing.

It's "high noon," cautioned Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, "as dangerous as the breakup of the Union before the Civil War."

No, actually, it's not the Civil War, said Republican Representative Roger Williams.

Williams likened the budget battle before Congress to the Revolutionary War. "It's truly our generation's Valley Forge."

But wait, what about World War Two? That was the analogy of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, the Texan who compared fellow Republican senators who didn't agree with him to appeasers of Nazi Germany.

Republican John McCain said he resented the Cruz comment. But then again, he has called Cruz and his allies "wacko birds."

"A kind of craziness," was how Democrat Jan Schakowsky described the scene on the Hill. The eight-term congresswoman from Illinois added that, "combined with the craziness is a meanness that I haven't really seen before."

Such is the rhetoric that has infused the debate over a wonky-sounding bill entitled "Continuing Appropriations For Fiscal Year 2014."

That is the bill that would fund the federal government when the previous appropriation runs out at midnight Monday, causing a partial shutdown.

Republicans continued to demand Saturday that in exchange for their support of the funding bill, President Barack Obama and his Democrats must agree to delay the health care reform law enacted in 2010 after a bitter debate.

That was Armageddon, now-Speaker of the House John Boehner said at the time, the biblical war between good and evil, the last battle.

Well, maybe next-to-last.

Three years later, another battle rages. The warriors are tarred with unforgiving labels. The Republican's conservative Tea Party wing is the "weird caucus" to Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid. Democrats, in turn, are the "political ruling class," to Senator Mike Lee. In time, Reid's "Tea Party anarchists" came up against Lee's "crony capitalists" who - according to Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama - happen to favor "socialized medicine."

Many Republicans have vowed to repeal the health care overhaul designed to provide coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.

To them, Obamacare isn't just a bad law.

It's "the most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed in Congress," said Representative John Fleming of Louisiana.

(Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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