AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
Published — Saturday 21 September 2013
Last update 21 September 2013 6:04 am
WASHINGTON: The House of Representatives approved a stop-gap budget measure Friday that would keep the US government operating into fiscal year 2014 but defund President Barack Obama's health care law.
Lawmakers voted along party lines 230-189 in support of the so-called continuing resolution that funds government operations at current levels up to Dec. 15, setting up a showdown with the Democratic-led Senate which will consider the measure next week.
Many federal agencies and programs will shutter on Oct. 1, day one of the coming fiscal year, if Congress and the president do not agree on a temporary budget measure.
But the Republican bill, in a nod to the party's more conservative wing, includes a provision that strips funding for the health care law, which its critics have nicknamed "Obamacare" and which the GOP has fought to repeal virtually since its passage more than three years ago.
"Let's defund this law now, and protect the American people from the calamity that we know this law will create," number two House Republican Eric Cantor told members in final debate before the vote.
Inclusion of the controversial provision, however, virtually assures that the bill will not become law, and sends the nation careening toward a possible shutdown.
Senate leader Harry Reid has promised defeat of the measure in the Democrat-run chamber.
"Republicans are simply postponing for a few days the inevitable choice they must face: Pass a clean bill to fund the government, or force a shutdown," Reid said in a statement after the House vote.
"The Affordable Care Act has been the law of the land for three years. Democrats stand ready to work with reasonable people who want to improve it, but Republican attempts to take an entire law hostage simply to appease the Tea Party anarchists are outrageous, irresponsible and futile."
House Speaker John Boehner, savaged by Democrats who accuse him of caving in to extremists in his caucus, including some who say a partial shutdown would be a better alternative than keeping Obamacare in place, struck a tone of pride after the vote, saying the ball was now in Reid's court.
"The House has acted, and today we urge the Senate to take action," he said, to applause from Republican members.
The Senate will likely approve an amended resolution with no Obamacare provision, however, putting the House leadership under intense pressure to do the same — or revisit the health care debate and risk a potentially devastating government shutdown after Sept. 30.
"Unfortunately, we'll be back here again next week, facing the same crisis," House Democrat Nita Lowey said in arguing against the House bill.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi warned that members ought to "get our House in order" and avoid risking another fiscal crisis.
"We are not here to expand government, but we are not here to eliminate government," she said.
"What is brought to the floor here today is, without a doubt, a measure designed to shut down government. It could have no other intent."
Shortly before the vote, the White House warned of the dangers of "playing politics with the economy" by refusing to pass a temporary budget or raise the country's debt ceiling, which will need to occur by mid-October if the US Treasury is to avoid default.
"The last thing we can afford right now is a decision by a minority of Republicans in Congress to throw our economy back into crisis by refusing to pay our country's bills or shutting down the government," a White House official said.