WASHINGTON – The legislation the Senate passed Friday to prevent a government shutdown landed with a thud in the House, where the Republican majority has no clear strategy for ending the standoff threatening to close shutter the government at midnight Monday.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) left the Capitol after a mid-morning meeting with his leadership team without publicly revealing a strategy. Boehner plans to assemble rank-and-file Republicans at noon Saturday to discuss the alternatives.
The GOP strategy is complicated by party infighting as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is encouraging his tea party allies in the House to resist passing any bill to fund the government that does not also halt President Obama’s healthcare law.
Several members of the House’s right flank attended the Senate vote in a show of support, even though Cruz was unable to convince enough of his fellow Republican senators to join him in stopping the bill.
“I am hopeful, I am confident that the House will continue to stand its ground, continue to listen to the American people and step up to respond and to stop this train wreck, this nightmare that is Obamacare,” Cruz said.
That strategy, however, appears doomed to fail as Democrats in the Senate are united around protecting the Affordable Care Act. No Democratic senators voted to halt the bill during the key procedural vote Friday or to halt funding for the healthcare law, as Republicans had hoped.
“Any bill that continues to play political games will force a government shutdown,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said after the vote. “To be absolutely clear: We are going to accept nothing as it relates to ‘Obamacare.’”
The Senate’s vote to keep government running – and keep the health law intact –puts pressure on the House to act with just three days until the end of the federal fiscal year.
On Friday, the influential U.S. Chamber of Commerce urged Congress in a letter signed by 235 other organizations to find consensus to keep government running and not default on the debt, which is the next battleground over Obamacare. The White House and Congress face an Oct. 17 deadline to raise the limit on the debt, to keep borrowing to pay the nation’s bills.
But Boehner has been unable to rally his troops around a strategy, and several proposals remain under discussion.
The hard right flank is pushing for a one-year delay of the healthcare law, while other Republicans suggest a delay of the mandate that individuals must carry health insurance, or face a fine, by 2014.
Still other Republicans, including some in the Senate, are suggesting a more modest measure that would prevent members of Congress and staff from receiving federal funding toward their health insurance – a proposition that many members of Congress oppose.
“We’re reviewing our options,” Boehner’s spokesman said.
Federal employees were being notified Friday whether they should show up for work or if they would be furloughed as “non-essential” employees as Washington prepared to close the popular Smithsonian museums on the National Mall and stop routine government operations.
Most Senate Republicans joined with the chamber’s Democratic majority Friday to overcome a filibuster on a bill to keep the government running past Monday. The Senate then passed the bill, without the provision to cut spending on Obamacare, on a party line vote.
If Congress fails to settle on a plan to keep the government funded by midnight Monday, the federal government will see its first shutdown in nearly two decades.