September 29, 2013

Congress moved the nation closer to a government shutdown on Tuesday as House Republicans voted early Sunday 231-192 to advance a stopgap spending measure to delay implementation of President Obama's health care law -- the one that is essentially identical to failed GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney's plan in Massachusetts -- for one year.

The House voted just past midnight to send the bill back to the Senate following a day of vigorous debate over the Affordable Care Act, which begins open enrollment on Oct. 1.

As House members began to leave the floor, Politico reporter Ginger Gibson tweeted, "I'm not over exaggerating when I say I can smell the booze wafting from members as they walk off the floor."

In addition to delaying implementation of the health care law, the amendment would weaken its requirement that insurance policies fully cover contraception and would instead allow businesses to decide whether to offer birth-control coverage to their employees.

The measure already drawing fire from birth-control advocates, such as Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, who called it “a remarkably desperate, misguided and extreme attack on women’s health.”

The House also voted 248-174 to repeal a 2.3% tax on medical devices enacted to help pay for implementation of the law.

The House then voted unanimously on a separate measure to ensure that the U.S. military continues to get paid if the government shuts down. Because no annual spending bills have been enacted, a shutdown would stop the flow of paychecks to troops.

Members of Congress, however, would continue to be paid if a shutdown occurs.

"The American people don't want a government shut down and they don't want Obamacare," said Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and his leadership team in a joint statement. "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."

Not so fast: the Senate is prepared to do no such thing, as majority leader Harry Reid has already said no bill will be passed that defunds the Affordable Care Act. And the White House said in a statement Saturday night that the House "acted irresponsibly" and that Obama would veto any such bill that ended up on his desk.

White House press secretary Jay Carney issued a statement before the House vote on Saturday:

“Republicans have tried and failed to defund or delay the health care law more than 40 times, and they know this demand is reckless and irresponsible,” Carney said. “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.”

“Any member of the Republican Party who votes for this bill is voting for a shutdown. It's time for the House to listen to the American people and act, as the Senate has, in a reasonable way to pass a bill that keeps the government running and move on.”

"There is no such thing as a shutdown. It's only a slowdown," Rep. Michele Bachmann (Delusional-MN) told TPM before the votes began. "We're going to get this done."

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