House GOP Passes Bill to Fund Government, Defund Obamacare

Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY), Appropriations Committee Chairman photographed on February 28, 2011.
National Journal
Billy House
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Billy House
Sept. 20, 2013, 7:36 a.m.

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.

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