The Republican-led House of Representatives has voted in favor of a temporary spending bill that includes a one-year delay in implementation of Obamacare, a repeal of the law’s medical-device tax and the adoption of a conscience clause that postpones the requirement that employers cover birth control as part of their health-insurance packages.
A separate vote to approve a bill to pay military personnel on time should a temporary shutdown occur passed unanimously.
“Why are we doing this?” asked Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), an amendment sponsor. “We know that ObamaCare is not ready for prime time.”
Boehner didn’t speak on the House floor during the debate before the amendments passed.
“The House has again passed a plan that reflects the American people’s desire to keep the government running and stop the president’s health care law,” Boehner said in a statement released after the vote. “Repealing the medical-device tax will save jobs and delaying the president’s health care law for all Americans is only fair given the exemptions the White House has granted to big businesses and insurance companies.”
He added: “Now that the House has again acted, it’s up to the Senate to pass this bill without delay to stop a government shutdown.”
Even before the House met for the Saturday evening session, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid had declared the Republican effort “pointless,” vowing the amended bill would be rejected when returned to the Senate.
“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,” said Reid. “After weeks of futile political games from Republicans, we are still at square one.”
Reid’s rejection was echoed by President Obama.
“If the President was presented with H.J. Res 59, as amended by these amendments, he would veto the bill,” according to a White House statement.
The amendment to delay Obamacare passed on a 231-192 vote. The medical-device tax was repealed by a vote of 248 to 174.
“We all know the end of this story. The president’s going to sign a clean CR,” Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) told The Hill, referring to a continuing resolution to fund the government. “We know that it’s going to happen, we just don’t know when it’s going to happen.”
Andrews predicted the Republican bill would be stripped of the GOP Obamacare amendments by Senate Democrats and returned to the House within 48 hours as the same “clean” proposal the Senate passed on Friday. But that won’t be soon enough to prevent a government shutdown, he said.
“Sen. Reid can move quite quickly to strike the provisions the House is adding to this bill. And when the Senate reassembles, he will,” Andrews said.
“I don’t think it’s very likely that all of that will happen before midnight on Monday – just the way things work around here,” he added. “In candor … when the clock strikes midnight on Monday the place is shutting down.”
Boehner and other Republican House leaders are planning for their next move when Reid sends the bill back. One option said to be at the top of the list, reports National Review, is the inclusion in the funding bill of the Vitter amendment, authored by Sen. David Vitter (R., La.), which would eliminate Obamacare subsidies for congressional staffers and members.
A final continuing resolution with Vitter’s language would put Republicans on solid political ground, even if Senate Democrats resist, the leadership believes. In that scenario, if the government shuts down, Republicans would argue Democrats shut down the government to protect their perks.
As WND reported, Vitter is the leading voice behind the effort to strip lawmakers and their staffers of special Obamacare exemptions and subsidies. The law forbids such special treatment, but the Obama administration approved them in early August. Vitter attempted to attach an amendment to remove those exemptions to the continuing resolution but was denied by the Democrats.
“I was blocked out of any vote, just as I was blocked out of any vote on this important issue for two weeks on the energy efficiency bill by Harry Reid, the majority leader,” Vitter said. “He and his group desperately want to prevent a vote on this because they know they’re in the wrong and because they know the American people are incensed over this issue. I’ll keep fighting for a vote, and I’ll get a vote eventually because I’m going to keep fighting for one until that happens.”
The Republican statement issued prior to the vote explained the GOP’s intent: “The first amendment delays the president’s health care law by one year. And the second permanently repeals ObamaCare’s medical device tax that is sending jobs overseas. Both of these amendments will change the date of the Senate CR to December 15th. We will also vote on a measure that ensures our troops get paid, no matter what.
“We will do our job and send this bill over,” the statement continued, “and then it’s up to the Senate to pass it and stop a government shutdown.”
As WND reported, the U.S. Senate approved a measure Friday to fund the government until mid-November but stripped House language that would defund Obamacare, putting the ball back in the House’s court, where GOP lawmakers insist they will not rubber stamp spending without some concessions on Obamacare.
The Senate vote to restore Obamacare funding came as no surprise, and Republicans talked through a number of options in a Saturday conference. One option that’s not on the table is backing down and passing what Democrats are calling a “clean” continuing resolution.
“I don’t think there are 218 votes in the House of Representatives to pass a continuing resolution of any duration that doesn’t have some fundamental reforms to Obamacare,” said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., a former chairman of the Republican Study Committee, which is comprised by House conservatives. “I just don’t think that those votes are there.”
The congressman is also firing back at the administration and most Democrats for declaring there will be no negotiations on the continuing resolution or debt-ceiling increase.
“If Harry Reid and the president want to shut down the government, then they will do it,” he said. “As the speaker has said, this is a negotiating process. This is a compromise process. For Sen. Reid, the obstructionist leader of the United States Senate, to simply say, ‘No, it’s my way or the highway’ and have the president continue to echo that, that’s not the way the process works.”