WASHINGTON — With each compromise House Republicans tried on the continuing budget resolution — scaling back each time the degree to which Obamacare would be affected — Democrats refused to talk as the fiscal year drew to an end.
Last week, the Senate rejected the first CR containing a full Obamacare repeal.
As the Senate leisurely convened Monday afternoon, it took up the revised bill passed by the House on Saturday night to delay the implementation of Obamacare by a year and permanently repeal the medical device tax. The upper chamber tabled that on a 54-46 vote.
On Monday evening, the House came back with its Plan C: a yearlong delay of the individual mandate of Obamacare, attached to the CR.
“I talked to the president earlier tonight, ‘I’m not going to negotiate, I’m not going to negotiate, I’m not going to do this.’ Well, I would say to the president: this is not about me, and it’s not about Republicans here in Congress. It’s about fairness for the American people,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on the floor.
“So the bill before us is very simple. It funds the government and it says, ‘let’s treat our constituents fairly.’ No more mandate for the next year that you have to buy insurance that you can’t afford. No more mandate that members of Congress get some so-called exemption. Both, those are the only two issues here. All the Senate has to do is say yes and the government’s funded tomorrow,” he continued. “Let’s listen to our constituents and let’s treat them the way we would want to be treated.”
That 228-201 vote chipped away at Republican unity in the caucus, with 12 GOPs voting against the revised bill and nine Democrats crossing over to join the GOP.
Republicans voting against it were Reps. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), Joe Barton (Texas), Paul Broun (Ga.), Mario Diaz Balart (Fla.), Charlie Dent (Pa.), Phil Gingrey (Ga.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Kay Granger (Texas), Peter King (N.Y.), Steve King (Iowa.), Tom Massie (Ky.) and Mike Rogers (Ala.).
The “no” votes came from conservatives who didn’t want to back away from blocking Obamacare, and Republicans — including Dent and Peter King — who wanted to pass a clean CR and fight about Obamacare fixes later. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) issued a statement before the vote: “I have repeatedly stated that I will not vote for a CR that funds Obamacare, and I trust House conservatives to continue to listen to the people and act to prevent the Obamacare train wreck.”
It took the Senate a matter of minutes to bring that version to the floor and vote on party lines, 54-46, to kill it.
So House Republicans huddled again and pulled out their last card — deciding to bring up the bill again and appoint conferees to go into negotiations on the CR. House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) called Republicans’ plan to assign conferees at the last minute “a recipe for shutting down the government.”
“Albert Einstein defined insanity as, ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ Tonight, we have more proof that House Republicans have lost their minds,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. “The House has – once again – attached political policy riders that are dead on arrival in the Senate. I’ve heard this story before, in fact, just six short hours ago.”
“If Speaker Boehner prevents the Senate bill from coming to the floor before midnight, the responsibility for this Republican government shutdown will rest squarely on his shoulders, as all America knows,” Reid added.
The upper chamber did approve by unanimous consent the bill also unanimously passed in the House over the weekend to continue pay for active-duty military and civilian support staff in the event of a government shutdown. President Obama signed the bill Monday night.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said he was “grateful” that Congress could at least come to agreement on that.
“Our troops have endured three devastating rounds of defense cuts, fiscal uncertainty, and massive force reductions; yet they are expected to continue the stresses and hardships of deployment,” McKeon said.
Half an hour before the end of the fiscal year the Office of Management and Budget issued it guidance to federal agencies for an “orderly” shutdown even as debate continued in both chambers.
“Appropriations provided under the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 (P.L. 113-6) expire at 11:59 pm tonight. Unfortunately, we do not have a clear indication that Congress will act in time for the President to sign a Continuing Resolution before the end of the day tomorrow, October 1, 2013. Therefore, agencies should now execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations,” the memo stated. “We urge Congress to act quickly to pass a Continuing Resolution to provide a short-term bridge that ensures sufficient time to pass a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year, and to restore the operation of critical public services and programs that will be impacted by a lapse in appropriations.”
“Agencies should continue to closely monitor developments, and OMB will provide further guidance as appropriate. We greatly appreciate your cooperation and the work you and your agencies do on behalf of the American people.”