The House on Friday passed a GOP bill to keep the government funded past Sept. 30 to Dec. 15, which would also require a defunding of President Obama's national health care plan.
With the bill's 230-189 passage, the measure goes to the Senate, where Democratic leaders, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., have already pronounced its Obamacare language dead on arrival. The House vote on the spending bill was almost entirely along party lines. Only two Democrats--Reps. Jim Matheson of Utah, and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina--voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia was the only Republican to oppose it. Ten Democrats and three Republicans did not vote.
After the vote, Republicans held what they called a "rally" of their members in a room near the House chamber.
"The American people don't want the government to shut down—and they don't want Obamacare," said Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, as his fellow Republicans clapped and cheered. "The House has listened to the American people. And now it is time for the Senate to listen to them, as well."
The Senate's Democrats promise to delete the anti-health-care language—and make other possible changes that could include increasing its level of spending—and then the measure will be batted back to the GOP-led House.
But that process in the Senate won't begin until next week, and it could be slowed by procedural hurdles presented by Republicans there.
The differences then will have to be worked out, likely just days before a current funding mechanism expires at the end of the month, or a partial government shutdown could occur. House members say they expect to be working next weekend.
On Thursday, the House passed a bill that would cut the food-stamp program by $39 billion over 10 years—without a single Democratic vote in support—and Senate Democrats have said they won't accept that level of reduction, either. The food-stamp program is a major part of an overall farm bill, and this standoff presents another end-of-month showdown for lawmakers, given the Sept. 30 expiration of the current farm-bill extension.
Even amid these unresolved issues, Republicans emerged from a closed-door meeting earlier Friday saying their leaders also now plan next week to unveil—and likely will bring to the floor for a vote—a bill that also will demand defunding Obamacare in return for a suspension or increase in the nation's debt ceiling. That GOP legislation is to include a package of other items, as well, including possibly advancing the Keystone XL pipeline, and a start to rewriting the nation's tax code.
The $16.7 trillion borrowing limit is expected to be reached in mid-October. Democrats backed by Obama have already said they won't negotiate over raising the debt ceiling and the need to pay the nation's debts.
"I think that's what they would likely do," said Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., of the plans by Boehner and other GOP leaders to move on a debt-ceiling package. "There's a lot to recommend that—stay on offense and keep moving."
At the same time, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and other Republicans were saying Friday they still expected Senate GOP colleagues to fight vigorously to keep the Obamacare defunding language as part of the temporary spending bill. Cantor said he hopes they will "leave no stone unturned."
The top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Nita Lowey of New York, expressed Democratic resentment on the House floor before Friday's vote, saying this was no time "for re-litigating Obamacare." She said Republicans could have brought a "constructive piece of legislation to this floor today," but that, "instead we consider a bill we know is destined for defeat in the Senate and would be vetoed by the president."
"This bill is about keeping the government open—preventing a shutdown," responded House Appropriation Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., also speaking on the House floor. He said passage of the bill will enable lawmakers more time—until Dec. 15—to work out a longer-term and more comprehensive "budgetary path forward" for the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
This article appears in the September 23, 2013, edition of NJ Daily.