WASHINGTON - An hour after the federal government began shutting down, House Republicans approved a last-ditch effort early Tuesday seeking to set up a committee with the Senate to resolve their monumental differences over Obamacare.
Establishing a conference committee can be a standard legislative procedure but is rare in a time of crisis. As of Tuesday, the first day of the fiscal year, 800,000 federal workers will be sent home and national parks, museums and offices will be closed.
The House passed the measure seeking a conference committee, 228 to 199. But even before the 1 a.m. vote, Democratic leaders promised to swiftly reject the offer when the Senate met later Tuesday morning.
“Talk through [the] differences,” House Speaker John A. Boehner urged the Senate after the vote. “I would hope that the Senate would accept our offer to go to conference and discuss this so we can resolve this for the American people.”
Although Democratic leaders said they would be willing to work with the House to resolve the differences, they said they would only agree to form a committee after the House approved a government funding bill that was not linked to stopping the president’s healthcare law.
“It’s embarrassing that these people who are elected to represent the country are representing the tea party, the anarchists of the country, and the majority of the Republicans in the House are following every step of the way,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). “This is an unnecessary blow to America.”
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. The healthcare law’s marketplaces, which allow people to shop for insurance, open Tuesday and are unaffected by the stalemate.
Republicans in the House have sent the Senate several attempts to dismantle the law - only to have Senate Democrats easily reject them.
With Congress unable to come to an agreement by the midnight deadline to fund the government into the new fiscal year, the administration ordered government agencies to begin an “orderly” shutdown.