September 29, 2013
The House of Representatives set up a showdown with the Senate over funding the government, as Republicans pushed through their iniatives in a series of post-midnight votes Sunday.
First, the House passed a repeal of a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices, 248 to 174.
Then, it approved a one-year delay in the Affordable Care Act, 231 to 192.
Finally, the House okayed a plan to continue military pay in the event of a shutdown.
The Senate, though, is expected to reject the health care plans. Senators are due to return at 2 p.m. Monday. If Congress does not agree by midnight Monday on a spending plan to keep the government running when fiscal 2014 begins Tuesday, parts of the government will begin shutting down.
September 28, 2013
The House Rules Committee formalized the rules for debating the Republican plan on the budget and health care, and final votes are now expected between 11 p.m. and midnight Saturday.
The Republican-dominated panel approved an hour of debate on plans to delay Obamacare for a year and repeal the medical device tax, which helps fund the health care law.
There will be another 40 minutes of debate on allowing military personnel to be paid in the event of a shutdown, and an hour debate on the rules themselves.
Republicans have a 233 to 200 seat House majority, and passage of all the measures is expected.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said that House Republicans acted Saturday to shut down the federal government.
"Republicans in Congress had the opportunity to pass a routine, simple continuing resolution that keeps the government running for a few more weeks," he said in a statement. "But instead, Republicans decided they would rather make an ideological point by demanding the sabotage of the health care law."
Carney said President Barack Obama is willing to improve the health care law and meet Republicans more than halfway but that "he will not do so under threats of a government shutdown that will hurt our economy."
"Any member of the Republican Party who votes for this bill is voting for a shutdown," he said. "It's time for the House to listen to the American people and act, as the Senate has, in a reasonable way to pass a bill that keeps the government running and move on."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called an anticipated vote in the House of Representatives Saturday on a budget plan that would delay the Affordable Care Act, for a year a "pointless" exercise.
The House's action and Reid's comments upped the prospects of a federal government shutdown on Tuesday.
“Today’s vote by House Republicans is pointless," Reid said in a statement. "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. Furthermore, President Obama has stated that he would veto such measures if they ever reached his desk."
He added: "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."
The House of Representatives plans to vote later Saturday on a budget plan that would delay the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, for a year.
It would also repeal the 2.3 percent medical device tax, and fund the government through Dec. 15.
The Senate Friday approved a measure that funds the government through Nov. 15 and keeps the health care law intact.
Since Republicans control the House, passage of the new plan is expected--setting up a showdown with the Senate, which is not scheduled to return until Monday.
Here's House Speaker John Boehner's statement Saturday:
"The American people don’t want a government shut down and they don’t want ObamaCare. That’s why later today, the House will vote on two amendments to the Senate-passed continuing resolution that will keep the government open and stop as much of the president’s health care law as possible.
“The first amendment delays the president’s health care law by one year. And the second permanently repeals ObamaCare’s medical device tax that is sending jobs overseas.
“Both of these amendments will change the date of the Senate CR to December 15th. We will also vote on a measure that ensures our troops get paid, no matter what.
“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.”
Republicans in the House of Representatives blasted President Barack Obama Saturday for negotiating with Iran and Russia over Tehran's nuclear ambitions and Syria's chemical weapons stash but not with them over avoiding a potential federal government shutdown.
“The sad thing about it is our president is willing to negotiate with a country we call a terrorist country but is not will to negotiate (with Republicans),” Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said in a morning speech on the House floor. “Yes indeed, Mr. President, we have a failure of leadership and the buck stops with you.”
Foxx's sentiments were echoed by Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, and other Republican lawmakers who lined up for one-minute statements in which they denounced the Affordable Care Act, the Senate’s move that stripped a provision to defund Obamacare from a measure to keep the government funded through mid-December, and placed blame on a shutdown on the White House and congressional Democrats.
“Unfortunately, our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are trying to put the blame on us for saying that we’re here because we’re fighting what we see as a failed policy,” Foxx said. “We don’t want to shut down the federal government…but we want to have the policy right.”
Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., said “The solution cannot and should not be just bigger government, just a legacy piece of legislation.”
"We are not about shutting down this government, that’s the policy of our conference,” Tipton said. “But we also need to have a policy that’s making sure that government laws are not hurting the American people. The Affordable Care Act is hurting the American people.”
As House Republicans were bashing Obama, the president was out hitting golf balls at nearby Fort Belvoir in Virginia.
September 27, 2013
The Senate will return at 2 p.m. Monday, the last day of the fiscal year.
The House of Representatives is scheduled to meet Saturday, but the action will first come when Republicans meet privately starting at noon.
They have the potential for drama, since the Senate Friday approved a stopgap budget plan that includes Obamacare funding. House Republicans are balking at the Obamacare money.
But the Republicans differ on tactics. Some want to try again to push stripping the money, some don't. If the House does pass legislation that needs Senate approval, though, it'll have to wait till Monday to see if the Senate goes along--and the Senate's Democratic leaders have said they will not accept any dilution of Obamacare.
President Barack Obama said he spoke by phone with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Friday, the first such conversation between the nation's leaders since 1979.
"The two of us discussed our ongoing efforts to reach an agreement over Iran's nuclear program," he said. "While there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution."
Obama and Rouhani have both said they hope to find a diplomatic resolution to Iran's nuclear program.
"Now, we're mindful of all the challenges ahead," he said. "The very fact that this was the first communications between an American and Iranian president since 1979 underscores the deep mistrust between our countries, but it also indicates the prospect of moving beyond that difficult history. I do believe that there is a basis for a resolution. Iran's supreme leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons. President Rouhani has indicated that Iran will never develop nuclear weapons.
Obama said he directed Secretary of State John Kerry to continue negotiations while working with allies across the globe.
"I've made clear that we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy in the context of Iran meeting its obligations," he said. "So the test will be meaningful, transparent and verifiable actions, which can also bring relief from the comprehensive international sanctions that are currently in place."
President Barack Obama sought to put pressure on Republican lawmakers to come to a deal to keep the federal government running in an impromptu speech at the White House Friday afternoon.
"So far, the Republicans in the House of Representatives have refused to move forward," Obama said "And in fact, if you've been following the discussion, the Republicans in the House don't even make a pretense that, that's what this is about. Instead the House Republicans are so concerned about appeasing the tea party that they've threatened a government shutdown, or worse, unless I gut or repeal the the Affordable Care Act."
Obama said his message is: "Do not shut down the government. Do not shut down the economy. Pass a budget on time. Pay our bills on time. Refocus on the everyday concerns of the American people."
The Senate Friday moved an important step closer to passing a budget that would keep the government open past Tuesday while restoring Obamacare funding, as it voted 54 to 44 to restore Obamacare funding to the fiscal 2014 budget.
The House of Representatives had stripped the funds in a vote last week.
Earlier Friday, the Senate voted 79 to 19 to cut off any a debate led by the plan’s opponents.
A final vote on the budget is expected later Friday afternoon.
The votes in the Democratic-controlled Senate set up a showdown with the Republican-led House. The House last week approved a stopgap budget that defunds the 2010 health care law. Senators from both parties have warned that keeping that provision will lead to a partial government shutdown, since the Senate will never approve it.
The House, though, is remaining resolute. It plans to meet Saturday to consider the Senate action, and so far, has shown little inclination to pass a budget that keeps the Obamacare money intact.
Unless Congress agrees on a budget plan by Monday night, the government will run out of spending authority Tuesday.
The Senate votes followed an often tense week of debate that featured a 21 hour, 19 minute talkathon Tuesday and Wednesday led by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Democrats, though, argued that the conservative effort made little sense; Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., urged colleagues Friday to strip the budget bill of "ideological riders."
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