The House approved a spending bill early Sunday morning that would fund the government through Dec. 15, but tacked on amendments that would delay the federal health care law known as Obamacare for one year and repeal the medical device tax, a move that sets up a showdown with Senate Democrats and increases the probability of a government shutdown Tuesday.
The Obamacare delay amendment passed 231-192, and the vote on the medical device tax, which would help cover the costs of Obamacare, was 248-174. The House also unanimously passed a bill to fund the military in the event of a shutdown.
Congress must agree to a federal spending bill by Tuesday, or the federal government will partially close down until members can find a compromise solution. The Republican-led House and the Democrat-controlled Senate disagree over whether the bill should include the health care law. Last week, the House sent a spending bill to the Senate without Obamacare funding , and the Senate responded by returning the bill on Friday with the funding inserted.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Saturday after the Republicans announced their spending plan that the upper chamber would reject anything short of a bill identical to the one passed by the Senate, and the White House issued a statement saying that the president would veto the House bill.
“Today’s vote by House Republicans is pointless. As I have said repeatedly, the Senate will reject any Republican attempt to force changes to the Affordable Care Act through a mandatory government funding bill or the debt ceiling,” Reid said in a statement. “To be absolutely clear, the Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical device tax.”
The White House also responded by reiterating the president’s call to pass a spending bill without riders attached.
“The President has shown that he is willing to improve the health care law and meet Republicans more than halfway to deal with our fiscal challenges, but he will not do so under threats of a government shutdown that will hurt our economy,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. “Any member of the Republican Party who votes for this bill is voting for a shutdown.”
Before the vote Saturday, House Republicans held a private meeting where leaders presented the plan to delay Obamacare and listened to opinions from rank-and-file members. Lawmakers emerged from the meeting to say that the conference was united behind the proposal.
With a Republican conference full of conservative lawmakers with little interest in conceding to Senate Democrats on Obamacare, House Speaker John Boehner faced a difficult choice. He could have either passed a funding bill with Obamacare amendments and risk a shutdown, or pass a “clean” bill like the Senate with help from House Democrats and risk facing the wrath of furious Republicans. He chose the former.
Now that the bill has passed the House, it will be sent to the Senate, which is scheduled to reconvene Monday afternoon.
“We will do our job and send this bill over, and then it’s up to the Senate to pass it and stop a government shutdown,” House Republican leaders Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and GOP Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers said in a joint statement.
The Senate bill that passed Friday would extend current spending levels only through Nov. 15. Democrats say that time frame would provide a month for Congress to pass a larger budget deal before the end of the year and replace the automatic, sequestration cuts now in effect.