The government has officially shut down.
The partisan gridlock in Washington proved insurmountable, as House Republicans continue to insist on changing, delaying or defunding Obamacare as the price for keeping the government open, while Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama firmly rejected that position.Continue Reading
It’s the first government shutdown since 1996, when Newt Gingrich was the House speaker and Bill Clinton was president. The House and Senate stayed in session until the wee hours Tuesday morning, but there is no clear path toward solving the budgetary impasse.
In a sign of just how entrenched Washington is, Congress is fighting over just a few months of government funding. Sometime in November or December, Congress and the White House will have to agree on a longer-term funding bill to last into 2014. This is just the first fiscal fight of the fall. The debt ceiling must be lifted by Oct. 17.
Stripping Obamacare of its funding has been a centerpiece of the House Republican Conference since the party took the majority in 2010. But this is the first time the GOP has declined to fund government because of the law and the Obamacare exchanges opened as planned on Tuesday.
The majority of polls show Republicans will bear the blame for this shutdown. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has privately warned House Republicans that they could lose their majority in 2014 as a result of shutting down the government.
House Republicans’ last-ditch effort Monday night was to try to pass a bill that would allow the leadership to appoint negotiators to a House-Senate conference committee to hash out an agreement on government funding. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would only assign negotiators if the GOP first passed a six-week funding bill without any changes to the Affordable Care Act.
The Senate won’t wait for the House to pass it’s motion to go to conference. About midnight, Reid said the upper chamber would retire for the night and reconvene at 9:30 a.m.
“This is a very sad day for our country,” Reid said on the Senate floor. The House has “some jerry-rigged thing about going to conference. It is embarrassing that these people are elected to represent the country are representing the tea party.”
The high-stakes legislative back-and-forth lasted for several days. The House first passed a funding bill two weeks ago, which defunded the health care law. The Senate responded by changing the legislation to fully fund the law. The House then passed several versions of its own bill to keep the fund the government — but with several caveats: first, defunding Obamacare; then a full year delay of Obamacare and a repeal of the medical device tax; then, a delay of Obamacare’s individual mandate and the cancelation of health-insurance subsidies for Capitol Hill lawmakers, aides and administration employees. The Senate dismissed each attempt.
Several Senate Republicans said they ultimately expected their colleagues in the House to arrive at something Senate Democrats can pass to keep the government’s lights on — but not on before the government shut down. There was one bipartisan bright spot. The Senate unanimously passed a bill Monday to keep military troops paid during a shutdown, and the president signed it just a few hours before midnight.
“When the House sends things that do have an attraction to members maybe we’ll see a difference,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R) of North Carolina. “We’ll go into a shutdown tomorrow and we’ll figure out how to get out of it. I think it will take a few days.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a chief critic of the House’s attempts to attack Obamacare during the government funding debate, said he’d sign onto a clean spending bill if given the chance — and expected sometime soon he would get one.
“Yeah because we can’t win. That’s going to happen sooner or later,” McCain said.
Some Republicans and Democrats think a shutdown could help the atmosphere in Congress. It could aid leadership in reasserting its authority over the rank-and-file. Some Republicans think if the government shuts down now, it would ease pressure ahead of the debt ceiling fight, which is imminent.
The chief question is how long each party can sustain a shutdown before folding.