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. 
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Michael Catalin and Billy House
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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