Some government shutdown levity

As the stalemate over the federal budget and the government shutdown continues, the Congress on Tuesday featured more than just the usual assortment of verbal jabs and rhetorical bluster over a temporary budget and possible debt limit increase, as lawmakers provided a little bit of showmanship.

"What do you have a higher opinion of, Congress or dog poop?" asked Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), who took gained a lot of notoriety in his first two years in the Congress with edgy House floor speeches.

"What do you have a higher opinion of, Congress or cockroaches?" Grayson said with an extra boost of adrenaline, as the chair gaveled him down.

Over on Twitter, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) was reading from some of the same polling that Grayson had been looking at.

"I personally rank the current Congress ahead of dog poop, but behind toe nail fungus," Polis tweeted, alternately getting pats on the back and abuse in response.

Meanwhile on the Senate floor, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) implored both parties to join forces and do something concrete about the national debt, as the Republican budget hawk tore apart a poster-sized credit card.

"What we should do is cut this credit card up, which is what I'm going to do, because that's the way I vote," Coburn said, as he first tried to use a pair of scissors and then tore the poster board apart with his hands.

"It's time we quit borrowing money against the future of our kids," Coburn added, his voice drowned out by the sound of the credit card's demise.

Coburn's Senate floor show-and-tell reminded me of Sen. Al d'Amato (R-NY) many years ago, when he skewered a large poster board cut out of a dinosaur - what he had named the "Taxasaurus."

"So take this lead pencil and give him lead poison!" d’Amato yelled as he stabbed the poster with the giant pencil while a female aide tried to keep the display from falling off its easel on the Senate floor.

The Coburn and Grayson highlights from the House and Senate floors really shouldn't get much in the way of attention - but they came at a time when both parties were repeating arguments that have been made over and over again, as no progress was made Tuesday on a budget or debt limit deal.

The outline is this: Democrats want the GOP to get the government funded and running and the debt limit increased without any strings attached.

And after that, then they will negotiate.

For Republicans, that is a non-starter, because they think Democrats won't truly negotiate once they get what the Speaker labeled "unconditional surrender."

The legislative day of Tuesday was capped by something that rarely happens, as the House unanimously approved a bill that just hours before, the White House had threatened to veto.

The plan would insure that federal workers who have been declared essential - and therefore are at work right now - would be paid no matter what.

That was approved on a vote of 420-0, despite the veto threat.

In the news business, we sometimes refer to odd stories as "man bites dog," since the act of a dog biting a human isn't out of the ordinary.

Tuesday might have had a little more "man bites dog" than we usually see on Capitol Hill.

And the shutdown rolls on.