Both sides threaten government shutdown Tuesday over Obamacare

McClatchy Washington BureauSeptember 27, 2013 

U.S. Capitol Dome

TISH WELLS — McClatchy

— Defiant Republicans and determined Democrats on Friday pressed toward a showdown over how and whether to keep the federal government running past Monday night, with each side signaling that it would let the government close before compromising over the fate of the new national health care law.

President Barack Obama blamed Republicans. “There will be areas where we disagree,” the president said at the White House. “But do not threaten to burn the house down simply because you haven’t gotten a hundred percent of your way. That’s not how our democracy’s supposed to work.”

He didn’t signal any plans to talk to Republicans or to compromise over their push to strip funding from the Affordable Care Act, informally known as Obamacare.

“The House Republicans are so concerned with appeasing the tea party that they’ve threatened a government shutdown or worse unless I gut or repeal the Affordable Care Act,” the president said. “I said this yesterday; let me repeat it: That’s not going to happen.”

Earlier Friday, the Democratic-run Senate voted 54-44 along party lines to fund the government through Nov. 15. It also agreed by the same margin to include money to implement the health care law.

The government’s short-term fate now is up to the Republican-run House of Representatives, which passed a stopgap spending plan last week that defunds Obamacare. Republicans are scheduled to meet privately Saturday, then the full House plans to meet throughout the day. The Republicans were expected to reject the Senate plan or at least to delay action on it.

If the two sides can’t agree, parts of the government would begin shutting down after midnight Monday, when the new fiscal year begins. Government agencies began sending out advisories Friday detailing their plans.

Social Security payments might be delayed. National parks and museums may begin closing. Military personnel would remain on duty but might not get paid on schedule. About 800,000 of the 2 million-strong federal workforce might be furloughed without pay.

Obama, who hasn’t spoken to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, about the potential shutdown, tried hard to pressure Republican lawmakers.

“No one gets to hurt our economy . . . just because there are some laws you don’t like,” he said.

He warned that “If Congress chooses not to pass a budget by Monday, the end of the fiscal year, they will shut down the government along with many vital services that the American people depend on.”

Obama also had other tough talk as the nation approaches its debt limit. If nothing is done by Oct. 17, the government is expected to exhaust its borrowing authority.

“Nobody gets to threaten the full faith and credit of the United States just to extract political concessions,” he said.

“No one gets to hurt our economy and millions of innocent people just because there are a couple of laws that you do not like. It has not been done in the past. We’re not going to start doing it now.”

Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said Obama was “grandstanding.”

“The House will take action that reflects the fundamental fact that Americans don’t want a government shutdown and they don’t want the train wreck that is Obamacare,” Buck said. “Grandstanding from the president, who refuses to even be a part of the process, won’t bring Congress any closer to a resolution.”

House Republicans remained divided Friday over how to proceed.

One side, largely elected with backing of the conservative tea party, wants Obamacare defunded and repealed, period. The other, largely senior members, was more pragmatic and argued that the Senate, where Democrats control 54 of the 100 seats, would never agree to dilute the health care law.

That group, which is considered sympathetic to Boehner, floated other ideas, including attaching a repeal of a medical device tax, which helps fund the health care law, to the budget. Some Democrats have been sympathetic to that change, but Obama is opposed.

Also in the mix was a plan from more than 70 Republicans urging that the law bar anyone from being required to buy coverage that covers items they find morally or religiously objectionable.

Another Republican plan would allow a vote on increasing the nation’s debt limit. Such legislation could include a host of other favorite conservative causes, such as construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Staunch conservatives, though, didn’t want compromise. Other Republicans wanted other favorite ideas and projects attached, making it hard to reach any agreement.

This much was certain: Friday’s Senate vote set up a congressional confrontation that’s unlikely to be resolved until the last minute, perhaps late Monday night.

William Douglas contributed to this article.

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