House Republicans are expected to vote Saturday on a proposal that funds the government through Dec. 15, delays the federal health care law known as Obamacare for one year and repeals the medical device tax, a move that sets up a showdown with Senate Democrats that could result in a government shutdown next week.
Members of the Republican conference met Saturday afternoon in a private meeting where leaders presented the plan and listened to opinions from rank-and-file members. Lawmakers emerged from the meeting to say that the conference was united on the proposal.
The House also will vote on a separate bill that ensures that the U.S. military is funded in the event of a shutdown.
Congress must agree to a federal spending bill by Tuesday, or the federal government will partially shut down. The Senate bill would extend current spending levels only through Nov. 15. Democrats say that time frame would provide a month for Congress to pass a larger budget deal before the end of the year and replace the automatic, sequestration cuts now in effect.
The Republican-led House and the Democrat-controlled Senate disagree over whether the bill should include the health care law. Last week, the House sent a spending bill to the Senate without Obamacare funding, and the Senate responded by returning the bill on Friday with the funding inserted.
The move to delay Obamacare will increase the probability of a shutdown. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said after the Republicans met Saturday that the upper chamber would reject anything short of an identical bill, and President Barack Obama has vowed not to sign any spending bill that tampers with his signature legislative achievement.
“Today’s vote by House Republicans is pointless. As I have said repeatedly, the Senate will reject any Republican attempt to force changes to the Affordable Care Act through a mandatory government funding bill or the debt ceiling,” Reid said in a statement Saturday. “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.”
With a Republican conference full of conservative lawmakers with little interest in conceding to Senate Democrats on Obamacare, House Speaker John Boehner faced a difficult choice. He could have either passed a funding bill with Obamacare amendments and risk a shutdown or pass a “clean” bill like the Senate with help from House Democrats and risk facing the wrath of furious Republicans. He chose the former.
The amended spending bill is expected to pass the House on Saturday afternoon and will be sent to the Senate, which plans to re-convene Monday.
“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,” House Republican leaders Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, and GOP Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers said in a joint statement.