House GOP won't cave in on Senate bill
WASHINGTON — As the nation moves closer to the brink of a government shutdown, House Republicans vowed on Thursday that they won't simply accept the stopgap legislation likely to remain after Senate Democrats strip away a plan to dismantle President Obama's health care law.
A sense of confusion settled over the House, both over how to avoid a shutdown and how to handle even more important legislation to increase the government's borrowing ability to avert a default on national obligations.
Short of votes, House leaders shelved a vote expected this weekend on the debt-limit measure and gave frustrated Republican lawmakers few clues about what they plan to do to avoid a shutdown.
The chaos sets the stage for weekend drama on Capitol Hill. The Senate plans to send the fractious House a straightforward bill on Friday to keep the government operating through Nov. 15 rather than partly closing down at midnight Monday.
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and several rank-and-file Republicans said the House simply won't accept a “clean” spending measure, even though that's been the norm in Congress on dozens of occasions since the 1995-96 government closures that bruised Republicans and strengthened the hand of Democratic President Bill Clinton.
“I don't see that happening,” Boehner said. “I have no interest in a government shutdown.” He said he doesn't expect a shutdown on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Democratic-led chamber won't relent.
“The Senate will never pass a bill that guts the Affordable Care Act,” Reid declared.
A partial government shutdown would keep hundreds of thousands of federal workers off the job, close national parks and generate damaging headlines for whichever side the public would hold responsible.
Washington must meet two deadlines: The Tuesday start of the new budget year and a mid-October date — now estimated for the 17th — when the government no longer could borrow money to pay its bills on time.
The first deadline requires Congress to pass a spending bill to allow agencies to stay open. The Oct. 17 deadline requires Congress to increase the government's $16.7 trillion borrowing cap to avoid a first-ever default on its payments, which include interest obligations; Social Security benefits; payments to thousands of contractors large and small; and salaries for the military.
The standoff just four days before the end of the fiscal year increased the possibility of a shutdown, with no signs of compromise.