WASHINGTON — Republicans rallied around a budget plan Saturday to keep the government open but delay the new health care law for a year, storming toward a showdown with Democrats that looked increasingly likely to shut down the government when the current fiscal year ends Monday night.
Republicans in the House of Representatives showed unusual unity Saturday in endorsing the plan, then took it to the full House for expected approval. Their proposal would keep the government funded through Dec. 15, delay the health care law, permanently repeal a 2.3 percent medical device tax that helps fund the health care plan and assure pay for military personnel if the government shuts down.
The Senate is not scheduled to return to session until Monday afternoon, 10 hours before the fiscal year ends. Democrats who control the Senate said they wouldn’t negotiate or consider the House proposal, leaving no apparent path to compromise before money runs out for many parts of the government not on automatic spending such as Social Security or considered essential such as the military.
“Today’s vote by House Republicans is pointless,” said Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “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.”
Government agencies have begun preparing for a shutdown. Monuments, national parks and museums could begin closing. About 40 percent of the federal workforce of 2 million people could be furloughed without pay.
The Senate staked out its position Friday, passing a budget that keeps the government open until Nov. 15 and funding Obamacare.
House Republican leaders for weeks had urged avoiding the kind of showdown that’s evolving, realizing the American public is not eager for a shutdown. But Saturday, after days of trying to find consensus, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio seemed to realize he had no other choice. The next move, he said, was up to Democrats.
“The American people don’t want a government shutdown, and they don’t want Obamacare,” Boehner and other House Republican leaders said in a statement. “It’s up to the Senate to pass it and stop a government shutdown.”
There was still talk that Boehner could bring the Senate budget to the House floor at the last minute Monday night and pass it with a handful of Republican votes and a strong Democratic showing.
Conservative Republicans said the one-year delay makes sense because parts of the law have already been put off, including the mandate for larger companies to offer employees insurance.