US government edges closer to a shutdown

US government edges closer to a shutdown

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

US House Speaker John Boehner arrives at the House of Representatives chamber at the US Capitol on September 28, 2013 in Washington. US President Barack Obama warned his opponents in Congress that he would not back down in the face of their threat to shut down the government over a budget dispute.


by ANDREW TAYLOR / The Associated Press

Posted on September 28, 2013 at 1:23 PM

Updated Saturday, Sep 28 at 1:25 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans on Saturday pushed the government to the edge of a partial shutdown next week, insisting that President Barack Obama’s signature health care law be delayed a year in defiance of the White House and Democratic-controlled Senate.

The House Republicans rejected a Senate bill passed Friday that would keep the government operating another 45 days and make no changes to the health care law. Instead, they prepared to pass their own version Saturday and throw the issue back to the Senate, which is not scheduled to return until Monday afternoon, 10 hours before the shutdown deadline.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has insisted the Senate would not pass a bill that alters the health care law. The White House has said Obama would veto such a bill.

In addition to delaying final implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also referred to as Obamacare, for a year, the House bill would repeal a tax on medical devices that helps pay for the law, said Republican Rep. Devin Nunes.

The measure would provide the government with operating funds until Dec. 15; the Senate’s version lasted until only Nov. 15.

Dealing with the possibility the Senate would reject the bill, the House also planned to pass a companion measure Sunday directing that U.S. military troops be paid on time despite any partial shutdown.

Failure to pass a short-term measure to keep the government running would mean the first partial closing in almost 20 years. A single, agreed-upon version must be approved by both houses of Congress and signed by Obama by Tuesday.

Such paralyzing fiscal fights have dominated Washington in recent years, underscoring the deep divide between the Republicans and the Obama administration and its Democratic allies. The two sides have managed in the past to come up with last-minute compromises to avoid a go

Obama, in his weekly radio and Internet address, accused House Republicans of being more concerned “with appeasing an extreme faction of their party than working to pass a budget.”

Before news of the new plan emerged, lawmakers took to the House floor and mixed name-calling with cries for compromise.

“I’ve got a titanium backbone. Let ‘em blame, let ‘em talk, it’s fine,” said Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn about Democratic claims that the Republicans would be at fault if the government must close.

She said the Republicans wanted to keep the government open, but also wanted to reduce its size and “delay, defund, repeal and replace Obamacare.

Should the House approve legislation on the looming shutdown, a vote seemed most likely Sunday, leaving little time for the Senate to respond on Monday.

Senators on Friday sent a bill to the House that would keep the government’s doors open until Nov. 15. But Democrats removed a provision to defund the health carelaw, officially called the Affordable Care Act.

The Senate’s 54-44 vote was strictly along party lines in favor of the bill, which would prevent a shutdown of nonessential government services.

That followed a 79-19 vote to cut off a marathon speech by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a tea party favorite, who was seeking to delay a vote on the bill. The vote exposed a rift among Republicans eager to prevent a shutdown and those, like Cruz, who seem willing to risk one over the health overhaul.

All 52 Democrats, two independents and 25 of 44 Republicans voted in favor. That included Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and most of the Republican leadership.

Cruz was trying to rally House conservatives, urging them to reject efforts by Boehner and other Republican leaders to offer scaled-back assaults on the health care law, like repealing a tax on medical devices as the House response.

Some conservatives were taking their cues from Cruz rather than party leaders such as Boehner hoping to avoid a shutdown. Closing down the government could weaken Republicans heading into an even more important battle later in October over allowing the government to borrow more money.

If lawmakers miss the deadline, hundreds of thousands of nonessential federal workers would have to stay home on Tuesday.

Critical services such patrolling the borders, inspecting meat and controlling air traffic would continue. Social Security benefits would be sent and the Medicare and Medicaid health care programs for the elderly and poor would continue to pay doctors and hospitals.

The new exchanges to purchase health insurance set up under Obamacare would open Tuesday, a development that’s lent urgency to the drive to use a normally routine stopgap spending bill to gut implementation of the law.

Associated Press writers Josh Lederman and Alan Fram contributed to this report.