(Photo: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)
A government shutdown seems likely with the House late Saturday seeking to delay the implementation of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare reform law and repeal its tax on medical devices. Democrats said the senate will reject the House plan.
Hours after a Republican caucus meeting called by House Speaker John Boehner, the GOP-controlled House on Saturday night agreed to pass a Senate-approved emergency spending bill provided it included a one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and repeal of its medical devices tax, which is one of the main sources of funding for Obamacare.
The House plan funds the federal government through Dec. 15 – excluding Obama's health care law, which Republicans believe will cause premiums to rise steeply and harm the economy. Obamacare is scheduled for implementation on Oct. 1.
The Democratic-controlled Senate, which is scheduled to meet Monday afternoon, is almost certain to reject the House proposal.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is sure about the proposal's rejection. "To be absolutely clear, the Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical device tax," he said in a statement Saturday. "After weeks of futile political games from Republicans, we are still at square one. Republicans must decide whether to pass the Senate's clean CR, or force a Republican government shutdown."
Senate Democrats are willing to debate and vote on a wide range of issues, including efforts to improve Obamacare, Reid added. "We continue to be willing to debate these issues in a calm and rational atmosphere. But the American people will not be extorted by Tea Party anarchists."
The White House also said Saturday that the president will veto any measure that challenges his health care law. "Republicans have tried and failed to defund or delay the health care law more than 40 times, and they know this demand is reckless and irresponsible," spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.
If a short-term funding bill is not passed by Monday night, the government will have its first partial shutdown in about two decades, causing over 800,000 nonessential federal workers to face furloughs. Federal agencies have made contingency plans for a potential shutdown. Social security and other benefit payments may also be delayed in case of a shutdown.
"The American people don't want a government shutdown, and they don't want Obamacare," House Republican leaders said in a joint-statement Saturday before the vote. "We will do our job and send this bill over, and then it's up to the Senate to pass it and stop a government shutdown."
Earlier this month, the House sent a spending bill, which included defunding of Obamacare, to the Senate, which, on Friday, passed a temporary spending bill re-inserting the health care funding.
"The Senate has acted in a clear way to keep government open," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Saturday. "Instead, House Republicans are insisting on not one but two proposals to shut down government."
Obama also criticized conservative Republicans on Saturday. "Republicans in the House have been more concerned with appeasing an extreme faction of their party than working to pass a budget that creates new jobs or strengthens the middle class," the president said in his weekly radio and Internet address.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington State, who is the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, sought to draw attention to the next major issue Congress faces: On Oct. 17 it will have to increase the debt ceiling or risk defaulting on its debt.
"The president is now demanding that we increase the debt limit without engaging in any kind of bipartisan discussions about addressing our spending problem," Rodgers said. "By an overwhelming margin, Americans believe the debt-ceiling increase should be coupled with solutions that help solve our debt and grow our economy."