Senate Passes Bill to Avert Government Shutdown, Rejects Defunding Obamacare

(Image 1)

WASHINGTON
(AP) — A potential federal shutdown hurtling ever closer, the Senate
dealt an emphatic defeat to a core of rebellious young conservatives
Friday and approved legislation preventing government agencies from
closing on Tuesday.

The 54-44 vote, however,
hardly spelled an end to Washington's latest down-to-the-wire budget
drama. It remains unclear whether the Democratic-led Senate and the
Republican-run House will be able to craft a compromise and rush it to
President Barack Obama for his signature before the government has to
tell hundreds of thousands of federal workers to stay home.

The
fight was certain to spill into the weekend at least. House GOP leaders
were still struggling Friday to win over restive conservatives and
concoct a new version of the bill that would be able to win approval in
their chamber – and clear the Senate too.

The
high-stakes showdown was playing out in a climate of chaos,
unpredictability and GOP infighting that was extraordinary even by
congressional standards. Reflecting the building drama, Senate Chaplain
Barry Black opened Friday's session with a prayer that included, “Lord,
deliver us from governing by crisis.”

Before
final approval, the Senate voted 79-19 to reject an effort by some
Senate conservatives to block final passage of the legislation.

Led
by first-term GOP Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, the
band of conservatives has wanted to derail the shutdown bill. They
argued such a move would have prevented Democrats from removing a
provision blocking money for Obama's health care law and forced
Democrats to negotiate on reining in that 2010 overhaul, which
conservatives and many Republicans despise.

Yet
Republican lawmakers opposed the conservatives' tactics, worried that
it was doomed to failure and would only enhance the chances of a
government shutdown for which the GOP would be blamed by voters.

The
lopsided margin of the vote against the conservatives underscored the
opposition they stirred in their own party. Twenty-five GOP senators
voted against them, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of
Kentucky and the Senate's other two top Republicans, John Cornyn of
Texas and John Thune of South Dakota.

“It is
not easy to disagree with your political party,” said Cruz. “But at the
end of the day, what we're doing here is bigger than partisan politics.
What we're doing here is fighting for 300 million Americans,” who, he
asserted, widely oppose Obamacare.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., barely concealed his scorn for the conservatives' effort.

“Today,
the Republican Party has been infected by a small and destructive
faction,” he said. Noting the increased risk of a shutdown that he said
they had caused, Reid continued, “A bad day for government is a good day
for the anarchists among us.”

Even in the House, some Republicans were unhappy with Cruz's and Lee's efforts.

“I
think that a government shutdown is counterproductive to our message in
2014, because we transfer the public's attention perhaps away from
Obamacare and instead put it on the pain that will be inflicted, that is
still to be determined, on the effects of a government shutdown,” said
Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark.

The House had
previously approved a version of the shutdown bill that included the
language – demanded by conservatives there – stripping Obamacare money.

That
House bill would keep agencies working Tuesday, when the government's
new fiscal year begins, through Dec. 15. The Senate bill shortened that
date to Nov. 15 in hopes of prodding congressional committees to quickly
complete spending bills bearing details of agency budgets.

GOP
disunity over what to include in a separate debt limit measure forced
leaders to indefinitely delay that legislation, which is aimed at
preventing a damaging, first-ever federal default that the Obama
administration has warned could otherwise occur by Oct. 17.

At
one point Thursday, GOP divisions burst into full view on the Senate
floor as Cruz and Lee forced the Senate to wait until Friday to approve
its bill preventing a shutdown.

“The American
people are watching this” but expected the vote Friday or Saturday, said
Lee, who asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to not hold
the roll call on Thursday.

Reid accused the conservatives of “a big, big stall.”

Asked
Thursday whether he envisions the House approving a simple
Senate-passed bill keeping the government open, House Speaker John
Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters, “I don't see that happening.” GOP
lawmakers said he signaled the same thing at a closed-door meeting
Thursday.

They said the House might insert
provisions into the shutdown bill repealing an unpopular tax on medical
devices that helps pay for Obama's health care overhaul, or erasing
federal subsidies for Congress' own health care coverage. They could
then dare the Senate to reject the overall measure – and face the
fallout from the government shutdown that would result.

But
lawmakers and GOP aides cautioned that no decisions had been made, in
part because it was unclear whether even those provisions would help win
enough votes for House passage.

In an attempt to build support for the debt limit bill, House GOP leaders considered adding a stack of provisions.

A
one-year delay of “Obamacare,” expedited congressional work on tax
reform and clearing hurdles to the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline
from Canada to Texas were considered certainties. Other possibilities
included boosts in Medicare costs for higher earners, land transfers in
California and Oregon, and repealing Federal Communications Commission
restraints on Internet providers' ability to control available content.

Even so, many conservatives said the debt limit bill lacked sufficient spending cuts.

Eds: AP reporters Andrew Taylor and Donna Cassata contributed to this report.


© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s