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Defiant House delays Obamacare; government shutdown looms

By Tom Cohen, Holly Yan, and Martina Stewart | 9/29/2013, 1:16 p.m.
The White House says Obama would veto the amended House plan.

"To be absolutely clear, the Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical device tax," Reid said in a statement. "After weeks of futile political games from Republicans, we are still at square one."

White House spokesman Jay Carney added that Obama would not negotiate on Obamacare or spending issues "under threats of a government shutdown that will hurt our economy."

Shutdown looms

Reid previously warned that any changes to the Senate's version by the House would result in at least the start of a government shutdown because of the time it would take to reconsider the proposal.

Republican Rep. Michael Grimm of New York said Saturday a "slight" shutdown could occur due to the little time left to pass a short-term spending plan for the new fiscal year that starts Tuesday.

"I'm hoping no, but just look at the timing," Grimm said, laying out a scenario in which the political wrangling leads to last-minute deliberations on Monday and beyond.

The prospect of a government shutdown caused by GOP tactics irked the longest serving member of Congress in history, Democratic Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, who said in a statement that "this once-deliberative body has been taken over by knaves and know-nothings, content with putting partisan politics ahead of the American people."

Obama not backing down

Tea party conservatives want to halt Obamacare now, just as full implementation of its individual health care exchanges begins in the new fiscal year starting Tuesday.

More moderate Republicans, such as veteran Sens. John McCain of Arizona and John Cornyn of Texas, criticize the strategy of tying a government shutdown to undermining the health care reform law passed by Democrats in 2010 and upheld by the Supreme Court last year.

Obama said Friday that new exchanges for private health insurance under the reforms will open this week as scheduled -- even if there is a government shutdown.

"The House Republicans are so concerned with appeasing the tea party that they have threatened a government shutdown or worse unless I gut or repeal the Affordable Care Act," Obama said. "That's not going to happen."

Political fallout

Even if the government were to shut down, Obamacare would probably continue anyway. That's because most of the funding for Obamacare comes from new taxes and fees as well as from cost cuts to other programs like Medicare and other types of funding that carry on even in the event of a government shutdown.

Congress' research arm, the Congressional Research Service, prepared a memo for Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, that suggested an effort to use the government shutdown as leverage to force Democrats to delay implementing the law would not really work because the law will continue regardless of a shutdown.

Plus, the law would still be in effect, so its many new requirements -- everything from forcing insurance companies to cover anyone who wants insurance, to requiring Americans to carry health insurance or pay a fine -- would still be in effect, too.