Politics

September 29, 2013

House Republicans OK bill delaying health care law

Senate Democrats vow to reject the House measure as a partial government shutdown looms Tuesday.

By DAVID ESPO / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

Eric Cantor
click image to enlarge

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia walks out of a Republican caucus at the Capitol in Washington on Saturday. Lawmakers from both parties urged one another in a rare weekend session to give ground in their fight over preventing a federal shutdown.

The Associated Press

The Senate rejected the most recent House-passed anti-shutdown bill on a party-line vote of 54-44 Friday, insisting on a straightforward continuation in government funding without health care-related add-ons.

That left the next step up to the House — with time to avert a partial shutdown growing ever shorter.

For a moment at least, the revised House proposal papered over a simmering dispute between Speaker John Boehner and the rest of the leadership, and tea party conservatives who have been more militant about abolishing the health law that all Republican lawmakers oppose.

It was unclear whether members of the rank and file had consulted with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has become the face of the "Defund Obamacare" campaign that tea party organizations are promoting and using as a fundraising tool.

In debate on the House floor, Republicans adamantly rejected charges that they seek a government shutdown, and said their goal is to spare the nation from the effects of a law they said would cost jobs and reduce the quality of care. The law is an "attack and an assault on the free enterprise and the free economy," said Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas.

Democrats disagreed vociferously. "House Republicans are shutting down the government. They're doing it intentionally. They're doing it on purpose," said Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland, as Republican lawmakers booed from their seats on the floor.

In the Senate, there was little doubt that Reid had the votes to block a one-year delay in the health care program widely known as "Obamacare." The device tax seemed trickier, since 33 Democrats joined all Senate Republicans in supporting repeal on a nonbinding vote earlier in the year. But aides said both House-passed proposals would be rejected in a single vote.

The 2.3 percent tax, which took effect in January, is imposed on items such as pacemakers and CT scan machines; eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids and other items are exempt. Repealing it would cost the government an estimated $29 billion over the coming decade.

If lawmakers miss the approaching deadline, a wide range of federal programs would be affected, from the national parks to the Pentagon.

Some critical services such patrolling the borders, inspecting meat and controlling air traffic would continue. Social Security benefits would be sent and the Medicare and Medicaid health care programs for the elderly and poor would continue to pay doctors and hospitals.

The new health insurance exchanges would open Tuesday, a development that's lent urgency to the drive to use a normally routine stopgap spending bill to gut implementation of the law.

On the vote to repeal the medical device tax, 17 Democrats sided with Republicans. Two Democrats supported the delay in the health care law, and two Republicans opposed it.

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