Democrats, Republicans In Shutdown Showdown
9/30/2013, 6:12 p.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) - As the U.S. government teeters on the brink of a partial shutdown, congressional Republicans and Democrats traded blame Sunday for the failure to reach agreement on a temporary funding bill to keep federal agencies open.
Congress was closed for the day after a post-midnight vote in the Republican-run House of Representatives to delay by a year key parts of President Barack Obama's health care law and repeal a tax on medical devices, in exchange for avoiding a shutdown.
The Senate convene Monday afternoon just hours before the shutdown deadline at midnight, and Majority Leader Harry Reid has already promised that Democrats will kill the House's latest proposal.
In the event lawmakers blow the Monday deadline, about 800,000 federal workers would be forced off the job without pay. Some critical services such as 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 latest fiscal fight underscored the deep divide between the Republicans and the Obama administration and its Democratic allies. Republicans insisted the health care law was costing jobs and driving up health care costs. Obama has said he won't let the law, his chief domestic achievement, be gutted. Democrats say Republicans are obsessed with attacking the overhaul, which is aimed at providing health coverage for millions of uninsured Americans, and the president.
Since the last government shutdown 17 years ago, temporary funding bills known as continuing resolutions have been noncontroversial, with neither party willing to chance a shutdown to achieve legislative goals it couldn't otherwise win. But with exchanges set to open on Tuesday where people could shop for health care coverage from private insurers, lawmakers from the Republicans' ultraconservative tea-party wing are willing to take the risk in their drive to kill the health care law, known as Obamacare.
The action in Washington was limited mainly to the Sunday TV talk shows and barrages of press releases as Democrats and Republicans rehearsed arguments for blaming each other if the government in fact closes its doors at midnight Monday.
"You're going to shut down the government if you can't prevent millions of Americans from getting affordable care," said Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.
"The House has twice now voted to keep the government open. And if we have a shutdown, it will only be because when the Senate comes back, Harry Reid says, 'I refuse even to talk,'" said Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who staged a 21-hour marathon speech against allowing the temporary funding bill to advance if stripped clean of a tea party-backed provision to derail Obamacare. The effort ultimately failed.
The battle started with a House vote to pass the short-term funding bill with a provision that would have defunded implementation of the health care overhaul. The Senate voted along party lines to strip that out and lobbed the measure back to the House.