WASHINGTON — With the government teetering on the brink of partial shutdown, congressional Republicans vowed Sunday to keep using an otherwise routine federal funding bill to try to attack the president's health care law.
Congress was closed for the day after a post-midnight vote in the GOP-run House to delay by a year key parts of the new health care law and repeal a tax on medical devices, in exchange for avoiding a shutdown. The Senate was to convene Monday afternoon, just hours before the shutdown deadline, and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had already promised that majority Democrats would kill the House's latest volley.
Since the last government shutdown 17 years ago, temporary funding bills known as continuing resolutions have been noncontroversial, with neither party willing to chance a shutdown to achieve legislative goals it couldn't otherwise win. But with health insurance exchanges set to open on Tuesday, tea-party Republicans are willing to take the risk in their drive to kill the health care law.
Action in Washington was limited mainly to the Sunday talk shows and a barrage of press releases as Democrats and Republicans rehearsed arguments for blaming each other if the government in fact closes its doors at midnight Monday.
"You're going to shut down the government if you can't prevent millions of Americans from getting affordable care," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.
"The House has twice now voted to keep the government open. And if we have a shutdown, it will only be because when the Senate comes back, Harry Reid says, 'I refuse even to talk,'" said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who led a 21-hour broadside against allowing the temporary funding bill to advance if stripped clean of a tea party-backed provision to derail Obamacare. The effort ultimately failed.
The battle started with a House vote to pass the short-term funding bill with a provision that would have eliminated the federal dollars needed to put President Barack Obama's health care overhaul into place. The Senate voted along party lines to strip that out and lobbed the measure back to the House.