Barring a last minute deal, the government shuts down tonight

Barack Obama

The stage has been set for a showdown on ObamaCare, as the House of Representatives passed amendments to the Senate’s version of the Continuing Resolution (CR) to delay ObamaCare for one year and repeal the law’s medical device tax.

In a rare weekend session, the House debated and passed a CR that would fund the government until mid-December. House Democrats decried the amendments for the measure, accusing their Republican counterparts of wanting to shutdown the federal government. House Republicans, however, insisted that this is was a compromise CR, citing the Obama Administration’s delays of various provisions of the law and bipartisan support for repealing the medical device tax.

Throughout the course of the debate, House Republicans noted that the White House has been eager to talk to Iran, but refused to negotiate a compromise on government funding with them.

Here’s a look at the changes made to the CR by the House.

Medical Device Tax Repeal: This amendment to the CR repeals ObamaCare’s medical device tax. This provision, which imposes a 2.3% tax on medical devices, has been troublesome for medical companies and could lead to the loss of some 43,000 jobs. Both chambers have passed repeal of this tax — the House last year and the Senate, at the urging of 18 Democrats, in March of this year.

The House passed this amendment by a vote of 248 to 174. Seventeen Democrats voted in favor of repeal of the medical device tax. No Republicans opposed the amendment.

One-Year Delay of ObamaCare: This amendment would delay the implementation of ObamaCare for one year. It passed in a 231 to 192 vote. Only two Democrats — Reps. Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Mike McIntyre (D-NC) — voted to delay ObamaCare. Two Republicans — Reps. Richard Hanna (R-NY) and Chris Gibson (R-NY) — voted against the amendment because they disagree with the House’s approach to the CR. 

Pay Our Military Act: Passed separately from the CR, this measure would ensure that the military, essential Defense Department staff and contractors are paid in the event of a government shutdown. It was approved without opposition.

By passing the two amendments, the House sent the CR back to the Senate for the chamber to approve or reject.

Now, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has insisted that the upper chamber will reject the latest House version of the CR, which the White House has said President Barack Obama would veto. Unless there is some sort of last minute deal, the federal government will shutdown when the fiscal year ends at midnight tonight.

Congressional Democrats, who are now saying that a government shutdown is inevitable, believe that this prospect would bolster their chances at the ballot box next year, helping them retain control of the Senate and possible take the House. They’ve claimed over and over that the 2012 election was a referendum on ObamaCare with Americans choosing to re-elect President Obama. But Nathan Gonzalez of the Rothenberg Political Report notes that the exit polls showed that Americans believe the law should be repealed.

Indeed, polls today reflect that view, with 52% of Americans opposing ObamaCare and 51% favoring repeal of the law, according to numbers compiled by Real Clear Politics. Moreover, stories of higher health insurance premiums and employers dropping coverage or slashing hours — unintended consequences that are a direct result of ObamaCare — will no doubt hurt the narrative advanced by the Obama Administration and Democrats that the law will make healthcare more affordable.

But for many Republicans, they’re seeing the ghosts of the 1995-1996 government shutdown that some believe were responsible for electoral losses in the House in the 1996 election. It’s unlikely that Republicans will lose control of the lower chamber, even in the event of a government shutdown, but losses in a mid-term election when they should be making gains would lead political analysts and pundits to question the strategy they employed during the CR debate.

Republicans did cede some ground in this ordeal. For example, the House-backed CR funds the federal government around $20 billion above sequester-levels, giving back some of the hard-fought spending cuts won in the 2011 debt ceiling fight. That’s a significant giveaway when one considers that the political divisions in Congress and President Obama’s position in the Oval Office make it virtually impossible to do anything over ObamaCare.

The finger-pointing will continue as politicians and pundits on both sides blame the other for an unwillingness to negotiate. Meanwhile, we’re playing the waiting game — again, absent a deal in the 11th hour — to see which side will blink first.

The best take on all of this comes from Stu Rothenberg, who recently explained that he is “tired of the over-hype, the constant chatter of how crazy everyone is and people pulling out their hair.”

“I’m tired of all the drama – from everyone from Ted Cruz and the folks at MSNBC to real journalists, who might want to put things into perspective rather than buy into the hype,” wrote Rothenberg last week at Roll Call. “I am interested. I’ll watch, but with the volume turned down. And tomorrow will be another day.”

In the meantime…


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