By: Burgess Everett and Manu Raju
September 28, 2013 01:58 PM EDT
Senate Democrats will reject the House government funding bill on the eve of a shutdown, seeking to pressure House Republicans to approve their plan to keep government running past Tuesday.
The House vote on Saturday on a bill to fund the government through Dec. 15, delay Obamacare’s individual mandate and repeal the medical device tax is “pointless,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who added in a blistering statement that “the American people will not be extorted by Tea Party anarchists.”
“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. 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,” Reid said in a statement.
A week-long stopgap extension of government funding to buy time for negotiations is not up for discussion, Democratic aides said on Saturday.
Instead, the Senate may simply move to table the House bill, which can be achieved with only Democratic votes. Senators may convene for a rare Sunday session to formally dismiss the House’s proposal, sources said, but those prospects appeared to darken as the afternoon unfolded.
“Probably not coming back but will wait and see,” a senior Democratic aide said.
Some Senate Republicans, too, are dubious of the House plan. On Friday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) warned that the Senate would not accept even a one-year delay of the individual mandate.
“The only problem with that is [in] the United States Senate, you’d have to have 60 Republican votes in the Senate, and you’d have to have 67 Republican votes to override a veto,” McCain said. “These are all good ideas, but elections have consequences. … I campaigned for months [last year], repeal and replace Obamacare — and it didn’t happen.”
Officially the Senate is scheduled to reconvene at 2 p.m. on Monday, just ten hours before a potential shutdown. But members have been informed to stay close to the Capitol in case those plans change.
Leadership has not yet decided procedurally how to dismiss the bill that House Republicans are expected to send back over to the Senate on Saturday evening. But based on the substance of the new government spending measure that the House is expected to pass on Saturday, Senate Democrats firmly said the proposal will not fly.
“By pandering to the Tea Party minority and trying to delay the benefits of health care reform for millions of seniors and families, House Republicans are now actively pushing for a completely unnecessary government shutdown,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a member of Democratic leadership.
On Friday, the Senate sent the House a bill that funds Obamacare and the government through Nov. 15 after amending a House bill that defunded the health care law, continuing a came of congressional ping pong that started more than a week ago.
Reid has repeatedly dismissed any Republican meddling on Obamacare as a dead-end road to a shutdown, though Republicans are already holding out hope that some Democrats could support the individual mandate delay or repeal of the device tax, which many Senate Democrats are on record as supporting. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) also appeared to back a one-year individual mandate delay earlier this week before clarifying that he believes a government shutdown should not be used as leverage for altering Obamacare.
“Senate Democrats will have the opportunity to give individuals the same one-year reprieve from ObamaCare that businesses have been granted. As Senator Manchin said this week, ‘it’s very reasonable and sensible,’” said a senior Senate GOP aide.
And Senate Republicans are already trying to paint Reid as endorsing a shutdown if the leader moves to table the House’s bill.
“The House bill will force Harry Reid and his red state Democrats to take some very tough votes. If Harry Reid tables this bill, a shutdown becomes more likely,” another Republican Senate aide added Saturday.