The Senate passed its version of a stopgap funding measure Friday afternoon, accepting the House's spending limits but stripping out provisions that sought to "defund Obamacare" (which wouldn't have affected most of the law's major features). The debate lasted several more days than it could have, thanks to Sen. Ted Cruz's ill-fated attempt to filibuster the bill he urged the House to pass. Nevertheless, the Senate left House Republicans enough time before Monday's midnight deadline to pass another version that Senate Democrats can't possibly accept.
That's important because the House GOP seems disinclined to accept the Senate version of the bill as is. Not that Republicans have any problem with the terms -- the Senate is using their numbers, after all. It's the fact that the Senate's continuing resolution is "clean," which is Washington-speak for "not loaded down with unrelated and controversial riders."
Several ideas are floating around for what the House should add to the bill. There's the ever-popular Keystone XL pipeline, still bogged down by the Obama administration. There are more changes to the 2010 healthcare law that Republicans are eager to make; the biggest of these would delay the law's individual mandate for a year, until after the 2014 midterm elections.
The most politically potent idea may be to require all federal employees, or maybe just all those who work for the White House and Congress, to obtain health insurance through the new state exchanges without any contribution from their employers. Proponents say they're trying to eliminate special treatment for Washington insiders, but that's just demagoguery. All those workers are covered by a group health plan today. To push them (and only them) out of the group plan and into individual policies on the exchanges, while also forcing them to pay the share of their premiums previously covered by their employers, is tantamount to slapping them with a big pay cut. Lawmakers are welcome to treat themselves that way, but it's cruel to do it to the public servants who work for them and the White House.
The CR is a hot potato, and it's politically crucial for the House GOP not to be stuck with it when the government's funding runs out and agencies tell their nonessential employees to stay home. Otherwise, the public is likely to blame Republicans for shutting down national parks, idling highway repair crews and the like. (Of course, the public may blame Republicans anyway, given that they're the ones picking the fights here.) So expect the House to move quickly, but not so quickly that the Senate simply sends a clean CR back to the House before Monday night's deadline.
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