September 29, 2013

Federal shutdown likely as House votes to delay Obamacare

Senate leaders, President Obama vow to reject move as time running out to avoid Tuesday shutterings

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent

WASHINGTON — Locked in a deepening struggle with President Barack Obama, the Republican-controlled House approved legislation early Sunday imposing a one-year delay in key parts of the nation's health care law and repealing a tax on medical devices as the price for avoiding a partial government shutdown in a few days' time.

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., arrives for a closed-door meeting with fellow Republicans as the House of Representatives worked into the night to pass a bill to fund the government, at the Capitol in Washington on Saturday.

AP photo

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House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, arrives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington today. Heat is building on balkanized Republicans, who are convening the House this weekend in hopes of preventing a government shutdown but remain under tea party pressure to battle on and use a must-do funding bill to derail all or part of President Barack Obama's health care law.

AP photo

Even before the House voted, Senate Democrats pledged to reject the measure and the White House issued a statement vowing a veto in any event. Republicans are pursuing "a narrow ideological agenda ... and pushing the government towards shutdown," it said.

The Senate is not scheduled to meet until mid-afternoon on Monday, 10 hours before a shutdown would begin, and even some Republicans said privately they feared that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., held the advantage in the fast-approaching end game. If so, a House GOP rank and file that includes numerous tea party allies would soon have to choose between triggering the first partial shutdown in nearly two decades — or coming away empty-handed from their latest confrontation with Obama.

Undeterred, House Republicans pressed ahead with their latest attempt to squeeze a concession from the White House in exchange for letting the government open for business normally on Tuesday. "Obamacare is based on a limitless government, bureaucratic arrogance and a disregard of a will of the people," said Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind.

Another Republican, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, reacted angrily when asked whether he would eventually support a standalone spending bill if needed to prevent a shutdown. "How dare you presume a failure? How dare you? How dare you?" he said.

Apart from its impact on the health care law, the legislation that House Republicans decided to back would assure routine funding for government agencies through Dec. 15. Under House rules, the measure went to the Senate after lawmakers voted 248-174 to repeal the medical tax, then 231-192 for the one-year delay in Obamacare.

A companion measure headed for approval assures U.S. troops are paid in the event of a shutdown.

The government spending measure marked something of a reduction in demands by House Republicans, who passed legislation several days ago that would permanently strip the health care law of money while providing funding for the government.

It also contained significant concessions from a party that long has criticized the health care law for imposing numerous government mandates on industry, in some cases far exceeding what Republicans have been willing to support in the past. Acknowledging as much, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said that as a conservative he had often found during Obama's presidency that his choice was "between something bad or (something) horrible."

GOP aides said that under the legislation headed toward a vote, most portions of the health law that already have gone into effect would remain unchanged. That includes requirements for insurance companies to guarantee coverage for pre-existing conditions and to require children to be covered on their parents' plans until age 26. It would not change a part of the law that reduces costs for seniors with high prescription drug expenses.

One exception would give insurers or others the right not to provide abortion coverage, based on religious or moral objections.

The measure would delay implementation of a requirement for all individuals to purchase coverage or face a penalty, and of a separate feature of the law that will create marketplaces where individuals can shop for coverage from private insurers.

By repealing the medical device tax, the GOP measure also would raise deficits — an irony for a party that won the House majority in 2010 by pledging to get the nation's finances under control.

(Continued on page 2)

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