World News‎ > ‎

House Debates Obamacare Delay As U.S. Government Shutdown Looms

posted 30 Sep 2013, 09:34 by Mpelembe   [ updated 30 Sep 2013, 09:35 ]

The U.S. government shutdown looms. Debate over a funding measure that would delay reforms promised in the 2010 healthcare overhaul continues in the U.S. House, as the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate stood poised to reject the funding measure.

WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES (SEPTEMBER 30, 2013) (HOUSE TV) -  With just hours to go before a midnight deadline to avert a federal government shutdown, debate over a funding measure that would delay reforms promised in the 2010 healthcare overhaul continued in the U.S. House on Monday (September 30), even as the the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate stood poised to reject the funding measure.

"The House has done its work. We passed a law on Saturday night, sent it to the United States Senate that would delay Obamacare for one year and would eliminate permanently the medical device tax that is costing us tens of thousands of jobs that are being shipped overseas. Senatedecided not to work yesterday. Well, my goodness. If there's such an emergency, where are they?" House Speaker John Boehner said.

Senior Senate Democratic aides said the chamber would take a simple majority vote shortly after 2 p.m. (1800 GMT) that would strip Republican amendments and send a "clean" funding bill back to the House of Representatives.

The move tosses a political hot potato back to Republican House Speaker John Boehner, leaving him a choice of whether to accept it and keep government agencies funded or try another move to rein in President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, known as Obamacare.

The latter action would all but assure at least a brief shutdown, because the Senate would likely run out of time to respond before the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year.

Failure to reach an agreement to extend funding would force federal agencies and programs to close or partially close for the first time in 17 years.

There were no sign of negotiations after a quiet Sunday marked by the two parties trying to pin blame on each other for a looming shutdown.

"Instead of working with Democrats to prevent a shutdown, House Republicans have passed two bills that have no chance of becoming law and are the 42nd and 43rd votes on undermining the Affordable Care Act. While the old saying goes, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again, I say to my colleagues across the aisle, stop trying to shut down the government of the United States of America," Representative Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat, said during the debate on the House floor.

Republicans accused Obama of ignoring their pleas for negotiations.

"The president, according to the New York Times, played golf over the weekend. So the president will negotiate with the Iranians, the president will negotiate with the Russians about Syria, but the president and the Senate will not talk to the House," Representative Ted Poe, a Texas Republican said.

Early on Sunday, House Republicans passed measures to attach the Obamacare delay and the repeal of the medical device tax to the stop-gap spending bill that would keep government agencies open until Nov. 15. In a sign that a shutdown may look increasingly inevitable, the House also unanimously passed a measure to keep paying U.S. soldiers in the event of a shutdown.

Republicans vowed not to give up their quest to thwart the implementation of Obamacare, a program aimed at providing healthcare coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, saying the launch on Tuesday of new online government health insurance exchanges will cause premiums to rise and deter companies from hiring new workers.

More people will blame congressional Republicans than Obama if the U.S. government shuts down this week and most want a budget deal to avoid disruption to federal funding and services, a poll released on Monday showed. Forty-six percent said that if government agencies and programs start closing on Tuesday, they would fault Republicans in Congress while 36 percent said they would blame Obama, the CNN survey found. Thirteen percent said both would be at fault.

About 60 percent of the 803 U.S. adults polled said they want lawmakers to pass a budget agreement to avoid the shutdown, according to the telephone survey conducted over the weekend.