An effort in the House of Representatives to attach a one-year delay in implementation of the Affordable Care Act to a measure to keep funding the federal government was opposed by all of the Capital Region’s representatives.
Compromise elusive, Republicans and Democrats engaged in finger-pointing Monday just hours before the first government shutdown in 17 years, driven by an intractable budget dispute over President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
“This law is not ready for prime time,” said Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who insisted that the Democratic-controlled Senate act quickly and accept a House measure that would avert a shutdown — but only by delaying further implementation of the health care law for a year.
One of the few Republican members of the House to oppose the measure over the weekend was U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook. He explained that his vote stemmed from a disagreement with the approach of the plan.
“I believe the Senate will reject this CR and we’ll be back to square one on Monday, increasing the likelihood of a government shutdown – which I oppose,” he said in a statement.
Gibson said the House should pass the Senate’s continuing resolution, which would keep the federal government from shutting down, but attach a simple amendment that would overturn the Obama administration’s decision to provide health care insurance subsidies to members of Congress and their staff. “The Administration made an exception for Congress to permit these benefits. “I believe this amendment would likely pass the Senate, thus ending the stalemate over the continuing resolution and preventing a shutdown,” he said. “More importantly, in the coming weeks as negotiations continue I think adopting this simple amendment is our best opportunity to delay implementation of Obamacare.”
His position is that Obamacare should be delayed until January 2015, which could be done in conjunction with lifting the sequester until the end of 2014.
“We can still forge a bipartisan, long-term solution that funds our government, raises the debt ceiling, lifts the sequester, and delays the ACA for one year,” Gibson added.
House Democrats soundly rejected the GOP plan to attach the Obamacare delay to the continuing resolution. Both U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, and Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, voted against the proposal.
Tonko described the attachment as a political gesture done at the expense of the American economy. “It is regrettable that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle cannot put aside their obsession with repealing the Affordable Care Act for one day to simply keep the government open,” he said in a statement.
“The federal government has a duty to keep its lights on, its doors open, and its critical services available to the American people,” Tonko said. “Make no mistake, the Senate bill keeps the government open. Unfortunately, House leadership is more interested in maintaining the same level of brinksmanship and petty politics they have dominated this chamber with for almost three years.”
The Senate returns shortly after 2 p.m. EDT — just 10 hours before a threatened shutdown — and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and his Democrats have made it clear that they want a straightforward bill to keep the government operating and won’t accept any GOP-crafted legislation that delays or unravels the 3-year-old health care law.
If no compromise can be reached by midnight, Americans would soon see the impact: National parks would close. Many low-to-moderate incomes borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-backed mortgages could face delays. Passport applications would be delayed.
One program that will begin on Tuesday — even with a shutdown — is enrollment in new health care exchanges for millions of Americans — a crucial part of Obama’s health care law. That’s because most of the program is paid from monies not subject to congressional appropriations.
But about 800,000 federal workers, many already reeling from the effect of the automatic budget cuts, would be forced off the job without pay. Some critical services such as 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.
Since the last government shutdown 17 years ago, temporary funding bills known as continuing resolutions have been noncontroversial, with neither party willing to chance a shutdown to achieve legislative goals it couldn’t otherwise win.
The battle started with a House vote to pass the short-term funding bill with a provision that would have eliminated the federal dollars needed to put Obama’s health care overhaul into place. The Senate voted along party lines to strip that out and sent the measure back to the House.
The latest House bill, passed early Sunday by a near party-line vote of 231-192, sent back to the Senate two major changes: a one-year delay of key provisions of the health insurance law and repeal of a new tax on medical devices that partially funds it. The steps still go too far for the White House and its Democratic allies.
Follow @GazettePolitics on Twitter.