Pressure is building on Republicans in US Congress over legislation to prevent a partial US government shutdown, as the Democratic-led Senate is expected to strip a Tea Party-backed plan to defund US President Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms from the bill.
As the Senate telegraphed its moves, House Republicans deliberated an array of imperfect options on both a temporary spending bill required to avert a shutdown and a separate measure to permit the government to borrow almost US$1 trillion to keep paying its bills.
Lawmakers face a midnight on Monday deadline to complete a stopgap spending bill to avoid a partial government shutdown that would keep hundreds of thousands of federal workers off the job, close national parks and generate damaging headlines for whichever side the public holds responsible.
The time line is daunting since Republican leaders in the House of Representatives appear all but certain to reject the Senate’s attempt at a simple, straightforward stopgap spending bill like those routinely passed since the 1995 to 1996 government shutdowns that bruised Republicans and strengthened former US president Bill Clinton.
A 21-hour talkathon by Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican, whipped up the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. However, it complicated efforts by House Republican leaders to assemble rank-and-file support for a temporary spending measure.
Cruz wants to derail the spending bill to deny Democrats the ability to strip out the anti-Obamacare provision, a strategy that has put him at odds with other Republicans, who say the move will not work and fear it would spark a shutdown.
Many Republican senators have said they will vote to advance the measure rather than filibuster it to death, a vote that promises to give Democrats controlling the chamber a procedural edge in a subsequent vote to kill the Tea Party’s effort to use the must-pass bill to derail Obamacare.
On Wednesday evening, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled his version of the stopgap spending bill, which would keep the government running through Nov. 15. It also contains the anti-Obamacare provision sought by Republicans. He set in motion a key vote today that promises to expose the divide between Cruz and more pragmatic Republicans.
Senate passage of the spending bill — stripped of the Obamacare provision — is expected no later than tomorrow.
“Any senator who votes with Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democrats ... has made the decision to allow Obamacare to be funded,” Cruz told reporters after his marathon speech ended on Wednesday at noon.
Cruz himself has predicted that is exactly what the Senate will do and he has already called on House Republicans to reject the bill when it comes back to them.
The simplest thing for Republicans to do would be to accept the bill and send it to the White House for Obama’s signature, a prospect that is unappealing to Republicans because it would make them look like they are surrendering.