The Times West Virginian

Headline News

September 30, 2013

Democrats, GOP in shutdown staredown

With deadline looming, Senate to convene today

WASHINGTON — With the government teetering on the brink of partial shutdown, congressional Republicans vowed Sunday to keep using an otherwise routine federal funding bill to try to attack the president’s health care law.

Congress was closed for the day after a post-midnight vote in the GOP-run House to delay by a year key parts of the new health care law and repeal a tax on medical devices, in exchange for avoiding a shutdown. The Senate was to convene this afternoon, just hours before the shutdown deadline, and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had already promised that majority Democrats would kill the House’s latest volley.

Since the last government shutdown 17 years ago, temporary funding bills known as continuing resolutions have been noncontroversial, with neither party willing to chance a shutdown to achieve legislative goals it couldn’t otherwise win. But with health insurance exchanges set to open Tuesday, tea party Republicans are willing to take the risk in their drive to kill the health care law.

Action in Washington was limited mainly to the Sunday talk shows and a barrage of press releases as Democrats and Republicans rehearsed arguments for blaming each other if the government in fact closes its doors at midnight today.

“You’re going to shut down the government if you can’t prevent millions of Americans from getting affordable care,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

“The House has twice now voted to keep the government open. And if we have a shutdown, it will only be because when the Senate comes back, Harry Reid says, ‘I refuse even to talk,’” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who led a 21-hour broadside against allowing the temporary funding bill to advance if stripped clean of a tea party-backed provision to derail “Obamacare.” The effort ultimately failed.

The battle started with a House vote to pass the short-term funding bill with a provision that would have eliminated the federal dollars needed to put President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul into place. The Senate voted along party lines to strip that out and lobbed the measure back to the House.

The latest House measure, passed early Sunday by a near party-line vote of 231-192, sent back to the Senate two key changes: a one-year delay of key provisions of the health insurance law and repeal of a new tax on medical devices that partially funds it, steps that still go too far for the White House and its Democratic allies on Capitol Hill.

Senate rules often make it difficult to act quickly, but the chamber can act on the House’s latest proposals by simply calling them up and killing them.

Eyes were turning to the House for its next move. One of its top leaders vowed the House would not simply give in to Democrats’ demands to pass the Senate’s “clean” funding bill.

“The House will get back together in enough time, send another provision not to shut the government down, but to fund it, and it will have a few other options in there for the Senate to look at again,” said the No. 3 House Republican leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California. “We are not shutting the government down.”

On the other hand, Democrats said the GOP’s bravado may fade as the deadline to avert a shutdown nears.

Asked whether he could vote for a “clean” temporary funding bill, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said he couldn’t. But Labrador added, “I think there’s enough people in the Republican party who are willing to do that. And I think that’s what you’re going to see.”

McCarthy wouldn’t say what changes Republicans might make. He appeared to suggest that a very short-term measure might pass at the last minute, but GOP aides said that was unlikely.

And rumors Saturday night that GOP leaders might include a provision to deny lawmakers and staff aides their employer health care contributions from the government had cooled by Sunday afternoon. Lawmakers and congressional aides are required to purchase health insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchanges, but the administration has taken steps to make sure they continue to receive their 72 percent employer contribution.

Republicans argued that Reid should have convened the Senate on Sunday to act on the measure.

“If the Senate stalls until (this) afternoon instead of working (Sunday), it would be an act of breathtaking arrogance by the Senate Democratic leadership,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “They will be deliberately bringing the nation to the brink of a government shutdown.”

In the event lawmakers blow the Monday deadline, about 800,000 workers would be forced off the job without pay. Some critical services such as 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 Senate was not scheduled to meet until midafternoon today, 10 hours before a shutdown would begin, and even some Republicans said privately they feared that Reid held the advantage in the fast-approaching end game.

Republicans argued that they had already made compromises; for instance, their latest measure would leave intact most parts of the health care law that have taken effect, including requiring insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions and to let families’ plans cover children up to age 26. They also would allow insurers to deny contraception coverage based on religious or moral objections.

Tea party lawmakers in the House — egged on by Cruz — forced GOP leaders to abandon an earlier plan to deliver a “clean” stopgap spending bill to the Senate and move the fight to another must-do measure looming in mid-October: a bill to increase the government’s borrowing cap to avert a market-rattling, first-ever default on U.S. obligations.

McCarthy appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” while Cruz and Labrador were on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Van Hollen appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Supreme Court: Michigan affirmative action ban OK

    A state’s voters are free to outlaw the use of race as a factor in college admissions, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a blow to affirmative action that also laid bare tensions among the justices about a continuing need for programs that address racial inequality in America.

    April 23, 2014

  • Court critical of law punishing campaign lies

    The Supreme Court appears to be highly skeptical of laws that try to police false statements during political campaigns, raising doubts about the viability of such laws in more than 15 states.

    April 23, 2014

  • U.S.: Russia has ‘days, not weeks’ to follow by an international accord for Ukraine

    Russia has “days, not weeks” to abide by an international accord aimed at stemming the crisis in Ukraine, the top U.S. diplomat in Kiev warned Monday as Vice President Joe Biden launched a high-profile show of support for the pro-Western Ukrainian government. Russia in turn accused authorities in Kiev of flagrantly violating the pact and declared their actions would not stand.

    April 22, 2014

  • U.S. weighing military exercises

    The United States is considering deploying about 150 soldiers for military exercises to begin in Poland and Estonia in the next few weeks, a Western official said Saturday. The exercises would follow Russia’s buildup of forces near its border with Ukraine and its annexation last month of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

    April 21, 2014

  • Ukraine, Russia trade blame for shootout

    Within hours of an Easter morning shootout at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement blaming militant Ukrainian nationalists and Russian state television stations aired pictures of supposed proof of their involvement in the attack that left at least three people dead.

    April 20, 2014

  • Governor: Closing Boston amid bomber hunt ‘tough’

    Several days after the Boston Marathon bombing, Gov. Deval Patrick received a call in the pre-dawn hours from a top aide telling him that police officers outside the city had just engaged in a ferocious gun battle with the two men suspected of setting the bombs and that one was dead and the other had fled.

    April 20, 2014

  • Everest avalanche reminder of risks Sherpas face

    The rescuers moved quickly, just minutes after the first block of ice tore loose from Mount Everest and started an avalanche that roared down the mountain, ripping through teams of guides hauling gear.
    But they couldn’t get there quickly enough.

    April 20, 2014

  • Colorado deaths stoke worries about pot edibles

    A college student eats more than the recommended dose of a marijuana-laced cookie and jumps to his death from a hotel balcony. A husband with no history of violence is accused of shooting his wife in the head, possibly after eating pot-infused candy.

    April 19, 2014

  • Everest avalanche kills at least 12

    An avalanche swept down a climbing route on Mount Everest early Friday, killing at least 12 Nepalese guides and leaving four missing in the deadliest disaster on the world’s highest peak. Several more were injured.

    April 19, 2014

  • Diplomacy doesn’t move insurgents in Ukraine

    Pro-Russian insurgents defiantly refused Friday to surrender their weapons or give up government buildings in eastern Ukraine, despite a diplomatic accord reached in Geneva and overtures from the government in Kiev.

    April 19, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads