WASHINGTON — House Republicans today pushed the government to the edge of a partial shutdown next week, insisting that President Barack Obama’s health care law be delayed a year in defiance of White House and the Democratic-controlled Senate.
They rejected a Senate bill passed Friday that would keep the government operating another 45 days and make no changes to the health law. Instead, House Republicans prepared to pass their own version today and throw the issue back to the Senate, which is not scheduled to return until Monday afternoon, 10 hours before the shutdown deadline.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has insisted the Senate would not pass a bill that alters the law. The White House has said Obama would veto such a bill.
In addition to delaying final implementation of the Affordable Care Act for a year, the House bill would repeal a tax on medical devices that helps pay for the law, said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.
The measure would provide the government with operating funds until Dec. 15; the Senate’s version lasted until only Nov. 15.
Dealing with the possibility the Senate would reject the bill, the House also planned to pass a companion measure Sunday directing that U.S. military troops be paid on time despite any partial shutdown.
Obama, in his weekly radio and Internet address, accused House Republicans of being more concerned “with appeasing an extreme faction of their party than working to pass a budget.”
Before news of the new plan emerged, lawmakers took to the House floor and mixed name-calling with cries for compromise.
“I’ve got a titanium backbone. Let ‘em blame, let ‘em talk, it’s fine,” said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., about Democratic claims that the GOP would be at fault if the government must close.
She said the GOP wanted to keep the government open, but also wanted to reduce its size and “delay, defund, repeal and replace Obamacare,” as the health law is known.
The Senate’s 54-44 vote Friday was strictly along party lines in favor of the bill, which would prevent a shutdown of nonessential government services.
That followed a 79-19 vote to cut off a filibuster by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that exposed a rift among Republicans eager to prevent a shutdown and those, like Cruz, who seem willing to risk one over the health overhaul.
All 52 Democrats, two independents and 25 of 44 Republicans voted in favor. That included Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and most of the GOP leadership.
Cruz was trying to rally House conservatives to continue the battle over heath care. He was urging them to reject efforts by Boehner and other GOP leaders to offer scaled-back assaults on the law such as repealing the tax on medical devices as the House response.
Some conservatives were taking their cues from Cruz rather than party leaders such as Boehner hoping to avoid a shutdown. Closing down the government could weaken Republicans heading into an even more important battle later in October over allowing the government to borrow more money.
If lawmakers miss the deadline, hundreds of thousands of nonessential federal workers would have to stay home on Tuesday.
Critical services such 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 new health insurance exchanges would open Tuesday, a development that’s lent urgency to the drive to use a normally routine stopgap spending bill to gut implementation of the law.