WASHINGTON – House Republicans launched a new strategy late Monday to pass a funding bill along with a request to appoint lawmakers to begin negotiating with the Senate over Obamacare – an almost impossible task that essentially ensures the first closure of the federal government in 17 years.
But the plan was immediately rejected as “subterfuge” by Democratic leaders even before it was brought to the House floor for a vote. “The House Republicans are still playing games,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “We like to resolve issues, but we will not go to conference with a gun to our head.”
Congress faces a midnight deadline to fund the government and avert the economic risk of furloughing 800,000 workers and shuttering federal operations.
The House and Senate routinely resolve differences in legislation through negotiations with conference committees that include members from both chambers, but it is rarely done in such a crisis-like situation with so little time remaining before a government shutdown.
Republicans, though, were determined to send the Senate one more offer, and with it, an attempt to shift blame for shutting down the government to the other chamber, which is controlled by Democrats.
“It means we’re the reasonable, responsible actors trying to keep the process alive as the clock ticks past midnight, despite Washington Democrats' refusal – thus far – to negotiate,” a GOP leadership aide said.
Led by the hard-right tea-party flank, House Republicans have been determined to use the government funding bill as leverage to stop President Obama's new healthcare law.
Republicans in the House have sent the Senate several bills in recent days to gut or delay the law, only to see their efforts swatted back by Democrats, who have united to preserve Obama’s top legislative accomplishment.