Shutdown nears as House delays health law - ( J44P44NN )

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved legislation early Sunday imposing a one-year delay on key parts of America’s health care law and repealing a tax on medical devices as the price for avoiding a partial government shutdown Tuesday.

Senate Democrats had already pledged to reject the measure, and the White House issued a statement vowing a veto. Republicans are pursuing “a narrow ideological agenda . . . and pushing the government towards shutdown,” it said.

The Senate is not scheduled to meet until midafternoon on Monday, 10 hours before a shutdown would begin. Even some Republicans said privately they feared that Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid held the advantage.

The Senate rejected the most recent House-passed bill to avert a shutdown on a party-line vote of 54-44 on Friday, insisting on a straightforward continuation in government funding without health care-related add-ons.

That left the next step up to the House, with time to avert a partial shutdown growing ever shorter.

The House Republican Party rank and file, which includes numerous conservative tea party allies, will soon have to choose between triggering the first partial shutdown in nearly two decades or coming away empty-handed from their latest confrontation in the deepening struggle with President Barack Obama.

Undeterred, House Republicans pressed ahead with their latest attempt to squeeze a concession from the White House in exchange for letting the government open for business normally on Tuesday.

” ‘Obamacare’ is based on a limitless government, bureaucratic arrogance and a disregard of a will of the people,” said Republican Rep. Marlin Stutzman.

While conservative lawmakers hailed the move, the White House slammed it.

“Any member of the Republican Party who votes for this bill is voting for a shutdown,” spokesman Jay Carney said.

Reid attacked the move as “pointless” brinkmanship that could end in economic crisis: “The Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical device tax. The American people will not be extorted by tea party anarchists.”

The finger-pointing coursed through hours of raucous debate on the House floor.

Democrat David Scott stood up to say that what was occurring in the House was nothing less than “a shutdown being ordered by the Republican Party.”

“You have been hijacked by a small group of extreme folks who simply hate this president,” Scott said, breaking House protocol as he addressed Republican members directly. “The American people are never going to forget that it was you who shut down the government.”

Apart from its impact on the health care law, the legislation that House Republicans decided to back would assure routine funding for government agencies through Dec. 15. Under House rules, the measure went to the Senate after lawmakers voted to repeal the medical tax, then for the delay in Obamacare.

A companion measure that was headed for approval assures that U.S. troops will be paid in the event of a shutdown.

The government spending measure marked something of a reduction in demands by House Republicans, who passed legislation several days ago that would permanently strip the health care law of money while providing funding for the government.

It also contained significant concessions from a party that long has criticized the health care law for imposing numerous government mandates on industry, in some cases far exceeding what Republicans have been willing to support in the past.

Republican aides said that most portions of the health law that already have gone into effect would remain unchanged. That includes requirements for insurance companies to guarantee coverage for pre-existing conditions and to require children to be covered on their parents’ plans until age 26. It would not change a part of the law that reduces costs for seniors with high prescription drug expenses.

One exception would give insurers or others the right not to provide abortion coverage, based on religious or moral objections.

The measure would delay implementation of a requirement for all individuals to purchase coverage or face a penalty, and of a separate feature of the law that will create marketplaces where individuals can shop for coverage from private insurers.

By repealing the medical device tax, the Republican measure also would raise deficits — an irony for a party that won the House majority in 2010 by pledging to get the nation’s finances under control.