What’s Next In The Congressional Budget Showdown?
By Tamara Keith
The House has passed a stopgap spending bill that would keep the government open through Dec. 15. It passed almost entirely along party lines: In addition to funding the government, it calls for defunding of the Affordable Care Act.
The White House has said President Obama would veto the bill, were it to come to his desk in this form. And it most likely won't. Democrats, who control the Senate, won't pass a bill that defunds Obamacare.
Which raises the question, now what?
Friday's vote was designed to project unity. House Republicans went straight from voting to approve the bill to an indoor rally in a neighboring room in the Capitol.
"The American people don't want the government shut down, and they don't want Obamacare," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said at the event, declaring victory with a panorama of House Republicans standing behind him and cheering.
But that joy isn't likely to last. Senate Democrats intend to strip the Obamacare language out of the bill and send it back to the House. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, says he'll take a stand and try to stop them — but the numbers, and Senate procedure, aren't on his side.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is convinced Democrats will win this one.
"I have never seen such an extreme group of people adopt such an insane policy," he says. "There's a time and a place for everything, and Americans know they're way overreaching."
In all likelihood, sometime late next week, the House will have to decide between a government shutdown and a stopgap spending bill that funds Obamacare, right along with the rest of government operations. But when asked about this prospect, House Republicans mostly deferred, saying they wouldn't want to speculate about what the Senate might do.
Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Ga., says House Republicans won't let the Senate jam them.
"I want you to interview everybody in this hallway, and I want you to see who believes that what the Senate sends back is what we get stuck with," he says. "I don't know who those people are but they don't sit in the conference meetings I sit in."
There won't be a lot of time for versions of the spending bill to ping-pong back and forth between the House and Senate. Without congressional action, the government will shut down on Oct. 1. Obama laid out the stakes Friday in a speech at a Ford plant in Missouri.
"This is not abstract," he said. "Hundreds of thousands of Americans will not be allowed to go to work. Our men and women in uniform, even those overseas, won't get their paychecks on time. Small businesses, they won't get their loans processed."
The last time this happened was in 1996. And polls show the public doesn't want it to happen again.