View Photo Gallery — Behind the scenes of the shutdown debate: Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are scrambling before the Oct. 1 deadline. If a spending plan isn’t passed, many federal agencies would temporarily close their doors.
By Paul Kane, Rosalind S. Helderman and David A. Fahrenthold, Updated: Saturday, September 28, 3:02 PM E-mail the writers
Their proposal calls for amendments to a bill designed to keep the government open for a few more weeks. The changes would include a one-year delay in the health-care law, which is set to take effect next month. The GOP plan would also repeal, permanently, a medical-device tax included in the law.
The advantage of that plan — for Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and his team — is political. After being criticized by GOP hard-liners for not doing enough to undermine the health-care law, Boehner has taken a far more aggressive position. Instead of seeking to take away some of the money to implement Obamacare, the House GOP’s new plan would push back the whole thing.
On Saturday, in fact, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said the House’s new plan was “pointless.”
“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, referring to the health-care law. “After weeks of futile political games from Republicans, we are still at square one: Republicans must decide whether to pass the Senate’s clean CR, or force a Republican government shutdown.”
The Senate might act as soon as Sunday: senior aides said it was possible senators could be called back then, a day ahead of schedule. If the Senate acts, then the next move would be up to the House again. And it’s not clear what that would be.
“It comes back to us, I guess,”said Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) after the Republican meeting on Saturday. “We really didn’t talk about exactly what the plan would be then.”
If nobody backs down, that would mean no funding bill passed before the deadline to avert a shutdown: Monday night.
On Saturday, Republican leadership already seemed to be planning to minimize the political fallout of a shutdown.
Their new proposal also includes a measure that would continue to pay U.S. military forces, eliminating one of the most politically sensitive impacts if a shutdown comes.
“The American people don’t want a government shut down, and they don’t want Obamacare,” Boehner and his lieutenants said in a statement, after Republicans met in the basement of the Capitol. “We will do our job and send this bill over, and then it’s up to the Senate to pass it and stop a government shutdown.”
The new, more confrontational GOP plan has a chance of picking up Democratic votes–but probably just a few. There are a handful of moderate Democrats who usually face difficult reelection races who may break off and vote with Republicans to delay the new health-care law and repeal the medical device tax.