Chambers May “˜Ping-Pong’ Bill to Avoid a Shutdown

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. speaks to the media about the marathon speech of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington, after Cruz left the Senate floor following a lengthy speech in opposition to President Barack Obama's health care law. The Democratic-controlled Senate is on a path toward defeating tea party attempts to dismantle President Barack Obama's health care law, despite an overnight talkathon on the chamber's floor led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. 
National Journal
Billy House Michael Catalini
Billy House Michael Catalini
Sept. 25, 2013, 5:54 p.m.

As the Sen­ate heaves to­ward a Sat­urday vote on a bill to keep the gov­ern­ment fun­ded, the House is work­ing on pos­sible coun­ter­meas­ures that would bounce the le­gis­la­tion back to the up­per cham­ber as the Tues­day dead­line for a gov­ern­ment shut­down ap­proaches.

In a sig­nal that House Re­pub­lic­ans may be pre­par­ing to take the fight down to the fi­nal hours — or even bey­ond — Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers are con­sid­er­ing adding lan­guage to what the Sen­ate may pass and simply bat­ting it back.

“That’s one of the op­tions,” said Rep. Steve South­er­land, R-Fla., one of sev­er­al Re­pub­lic­ans gathered in a meet­ing Wed­nes­day even­ing with House Speak­er John Boehner, R-Ohio. “I wouldn’t stow away your ping-pong paddles.”

Ex­actly what Re­pub­lic­ans might change in a Sen­ate-passed ver­sion was ap­par­ently not yet de­cided as of Wed­nes­day even­ing, and rank-and-file Re­pub­lic­ans were ex­pec­ted to hear more in a closed-door con­fer­ence on Thursday morn­ing.

Rules Com­mit­tee Chair­man Pete Ses­sions, R-Texas, said there are a num­ber of op­tions. He did not rule out that the House could at­tach some of the same de­mands that are ex­pec­ted to be joined to a House Re­pub­lic­an debt-ceil­ing bill to be in­tro­duced on Thursday. Those may in­clude a one-year delay in im­ple­ment­ing Obama­care; lan­guage push­ing for­ward with the Key­stone XL pipeline; and a meas­ure to re­peal a tax on med­ic­al devices.

“We’ll have a con­ver­sa­tion with the mem­bers to­mor­row,” said Ses­sions, who also would not rule out the no­tion of a con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion last­ing one week to al­low fur­ther ne­go­ti­ations.

The Sen­ate has been con­sid­er­ing a CR passed by the House to keep the gov­ern­ment run­ning bey­ond the close of the fisc­al year next Tues­day. The bill also in­cludes lan­guage that would de­fund the Af­ford­able Care Act, though Sen­ate Demo­crats have vowed to strip that lan­guage out.

The Sen­ate cleared a pro­ced­ur­al vote on the CR after a mara­thon floor speech by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who wants Re­pub­lic­ans to op­pose any meas­ures that fund Obama­care. The 100-0 vote would have set up an­oth­er roll call on the mo­tion to pro­ceed later Thursday, but lead­ers reached agree­ment to dis­pense with that vote.

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, D-Nev., filed clo­ture to end de­bate on the bill it­self. That vote is ex­pec­ted on Fri­day, with a fi­nal vote on Sat­urday, ac­cord­ing to a Demo­crat­ic Sen­ate lead­er­ship aide.

It’s the clo­ture vote that Cruz called upon Re­pub­lic­ans to op­pose. Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers, though, have re­jec­ted Cruz’s ap­proach be­cause vot­ing to end de­bate on the bill would mean vot­ing against the House lan­guage to de­fund Obama­care, even though that lan­guage is not likely to re­main in the fi­nal bill.

Ul­ti­mately, Cruz was will­ing to speed up the Sen­ate pro­cess. Be­fore ced­ing con­trol of the floor, he pro­posed a series of un­an­im­ous-con­sent agree­ments aimed at mov­ing up the clo­ture and fi­nal votes on the bill. Cruz said he wanted the vote to be on Fri­day in­stead of Sat­urday to raise its vis­ib­il­ity, but Re­id did not re­spond to the re­quest on the floor. It was later on Wed­nes­day that Demo­crat­ic and Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers agreed to move up de­bate on the clo­ture mo­tion.

“It is my view if they want to speed things up we are not go­ing to slow them down,” said Sen. Chuck Schu­mer, D-N.Y.

Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell, R-Ky., also in­dic­ated this week that he thinks it would be be­ne­fi­cial for House Re­pub­lic­ans if the Sen­ate voted soon­er.

Re­id plans to use an amend­ment to strip out the lan­guage to de­fund Obama­care and to change the ex­ten­sion peri­od to end on Nov. 15. The House bill took it to Dec. 15.

As to wheth­er Re­id and Boehner are meet­ing over the con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion, Schu­mer said he was not aware of any meet­ings, and a Demo­crat­ic aide said Re­id and Boehner did not have any plans to meet head­ing in­to the week­end. Schu­mer did not rule out con­sid­er­ing House amend­ments to a clean con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion, and he poin­ted out that Demo­crats would like to re­vis­it se­quest­ra­tion but won’t — for now.

“Our ba­sic view is very simple, and that is, there ought to be no riders,” Schu­mer said. “They ought to pass the CR, fund the gov­ern­ment for a few months, and then we could dis­cuss the is­sues where we might come to agree­ment and not.”

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