US House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (centre) walks to the House floor for a series of late-night votes at the US Capitol in Washington.
WASHINGTON: The US government was in deadlock yesterday after the House of Representatives approved a Republican bill that attempts to delay President Barack Obama’s healthcare law.
Congress now has less than 48 hours to strike a deal that keeps the government open, but the ping-ponging of legislation is making that unlikely.
The House measure funds the government at current levels until mid-December, but also includes a one-year delay of the president’s signature healthcare reform — dubbed Obamacare — and the repeal of a tax on medical devices.
The measure needs approval in the Senate, where Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid said it will be rejected.
“Now that the House has again acted, it’s up to the Senate to pass this bill without delay to stop a government shutdown,” House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement shortly after the vote. “Let’s get this done.” The vote brings the federal government dramatically closer to its first shutdown in 17 years, which would require hundreds of thousands of federal workers to stay home.
After hours of raucous debate, the Republican-controlled House approved the measure just after midnight Saturday, voting largely along party lines.
Republican leaders set off a political firestorm when they announced Saturday that their stopgap federal spending bill sought to delay implementation of the health care law by one year.
The White House sharply rebuked the move, and warned it was a step toward shuttering federal agencies once the fiscal year ends Monday night.
Senate Leader Reid was uncompromising.
“To be absolutely clear, the Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical device tax,” Reid said.
Boehner nevertheless ploughed ahead with the strategy, convening a rare Saturday session as Congress struggled to break the funding impasse. Under pressure from his Republican party’s far-right conservative wing, Boehner doubled down on his caucus’s bid to stop Obamacare.
“The American people will not be extorted by Tea Party anarchists,” said Reid, referring to the ultra-conservative faction of Republicans.
He derided the House measure as “pointless” brinkmanship that could end in economic crisis.
Driving the point home, a Senate Democratic aide said that it was “highly unlikely” the chamber would be in session before today. Given the Senate’s likely rejection of the House bill in the waning hours of the fiscal year, a Republican aide acknowledged that a temporary shutdown was the likeliest scenario. AFP