September 27, 2013

Senate votes 54-44 to restore Obamacare funding

The Senate Friday moved an important step closer to passing a budget that would keep the government open past Tuesday while restoring Obamacare funding, as it voted 54 to 44 to restore Obamacare funding to the fiscal 2014 budget.

The House of Representatives had stripped the funds in a vote last week.

Earlier Friday, the Senate voted 79 to 19 to cut off any a debate led by the plan’s opponents.

A final vote on the budget is expected later Friday afternoon.

The votes in the Democratic-controlled Senate set up a showdown with the Republican-led House.  The House last week approved a stopgap budget that defunds the 2010 health care law. Senators from both parties have warned that keeping that provision will lead to a partial government shutdown, since the Senate will never approve it.

The House, though, is remaining resolute. It plans to meet Saturday to consider the Senate action, and so far, has shown little inclination to pass a budget that keeps the Obamacare money intact.

Unless Congress agrees on a budget plan by Monday night, the government will run out of spending authority Tuesday.

The Senate votes followed an often tense week of debate that featured a 21 hour, 19 minute talkathon Tuesday and Wednesday led by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Democrats, though, argued that the conservative effort made little sense; Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., urged colleagues Friday to strip the budget bill of "ideological riders."

Senate votes start at 12:30, and after that, who knows?

The action in Congress starts at 12:30 Friday, when the Senate is scheduled to begin a series of votes that will stake out its position on keeping the government open--and Obamacare funded.

If the Senate acts as expected, the next move will be up to the Republican-led House of Representatives. Republicans are expected to meet after the Senate vote to plot their next moves.

The first Senate vote Friday will be whether to cut off debate on legislation keeping the government running past Oct. 1. Sixty votes are needed for passage.

If that vote succeeds--as expected--the Senate would then quickly vote to restore Obamacare funding, which was eliminated in the House version of the bill last week--and then pass the entire bill. Those two votes need 51 for passage, and Democrats control 54 of the 100 seats.

After that, who knows? Republicans have vowed they won't accept a budget that funds Obamacare. They're considering several steps, including adding a repeal of a medical device tax that helps fund the law's provisions, and keeping the government open for another week while negotiations continue.

If the two Houses can't agree by Monday night, parts of the government are due to shut down Tuesday.


September 26, 2013

Pfeiffer: White House won't negotiate with people who have bombs strapped to their chests

White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer used strong language when referring to House Republicans on national TV Thursday -- alluding to suicide bombers, kidnappers and arsonists.

"What we're not for is negotiating with people with a bomb strapped to their chest," Pfeiffer told CNN's Jake Tapper. "We're not going to do that."

The House of Representatives and the Senate must approve a dozen appropriations bills by Sept. 30 – the last day of the fiscal year – to keep the government running.

The House, run by Republicans, passed a temporary proposal last week to keep the government open until mid-December, but the measure also would defund the federal health care law, large parts of which are scheduled to take effect Tuesday. The Democratic-controlled Senate expects to defeat that bill in the coming days, leaving the two sides without a way forward.

Continue reading "Pfeiffer: White House won't negotiate with people who have bombs strapped to their chests"

An unusual partisan war on the Senate floor.

The Senate is slated to vote on cutting off debate on budget legislation Friday--and so far, that's what it will do.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to move up the vote to Thursday, but a small group of Republicans said no. That led to a highly unusual partisan clash on the Senate floor, with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., questioning Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Cruz led a 21 hour, 19 minute talkathon Tuesday and Wednesday, but then voted to cut off debate, along with the other 99 senators.

"I don't think we've had a 21-hour filibuster and then the person carrying out the filibuster voted for the issue they were filibustering," Corker said.

Cruz explained that Corker made a "misstatement" suggesting that Cruz and others changed their position. The vote was to cut off debate on the motion to proceed to the bill, a motion Cruz supported.

Corker would not relent. Finally, he charged, "It's my understanding that the reason that we're putting this off is because they would like for people around the country that they have notified to be able to watch."

Final votes are expected Friday.

Obama blasts GOP on health care, budget impasse

President Barack Obama blasted Republican lawmakers Thursday morning, accusing them of trying to “blackmail a president” by threatening to shut down the government or default on the nation’s debt if he did not agree to stop implementing the federal health care law.

“We’re not going to submit to this type of total irresponsibility,” Obama said. “I will not negotiate on anything when it comes to the full faith and credit of the United States of America.”

Obama traveled to a Washington area community college in Maryland to tout the federal health care law, dubbed Obamacare, large portions of which will go into effect next week. He did not mention, however, that the administration planned to delay online enrollment in some of the small business exchanges that were set to open Tuesday.

Continue reading "Obama blasts GOP on health care, budget impasse"

Boehner doesn't expect shutdown, but is wary of Senate action

He expects no shutdown, House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday. But he's also not inclined to deal with a budget passed by the Senate that includes funding for Obamacare.

Asked if he would accept such legislation, Boehner said, "I do not see that happening."

So would he attach something to it, like defunding Obamacare?

Boehner wouldn't say. "I made it clear now for months and months and months, we have no interest in seeing a government shutdown.  But we've got to address the spending problem that we have in this town. And so there will be options available to us.  There is not going to be any speculation about what we're going to do or not do until the Senate passes their bill," the Ohio Republican said.

He would not get specific. "We're not going to have a discussion about the CR (continuing resolution), to speculate about the CR, until the Senate finishes their bill," he said. That's expected Saturday. 

But Boehner stressed he did not see a shutdown coming. "No, I do not expect that to happen," he said.

Unless Congress agrees on a spending plan by Oct. 1, parts of the government could begin shutting down.

Poll: "The partisan divide over the health care law is stark"

Americans are divided over whether Obamacare should survive.

A new United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection poll found 49 percent thought Congress should not end the program. Those people liked the expanded health insurance protection.

But 44 percent thought the law should be repealed because it's too expensive.

The findings in many ways reflect what's going on at the Capitol--Republicans want to defund Obamacare. Democrats don't.

"The partisan divide over the health care law is stark," says a poll analysis. "More than three in four Republicans, 77 percent, said the program should be repealed. Meanwhile, 72 percent of Democrats said it should remain in place. Independents are closely divided: 46 percent favor repeal and 45 percent oppose."

To read more:

September 25, 2013

Senate will move faster on budget

The Senate will move a bit faster than expected on the fiscal 2014 budget bill.

Lawmakers agreed late Wednesday not to use all the debate time allotted on the motion to formally proceed to the bill. As a result, the Senate agreed by voice vote to consider the measure.

That could mean another long debate. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada quickly moved to cut off a talkathon. A vote on that cutoff, or cloture, is likely Friday. If it gets 60 votes, there could be 30 more hours of debate.

That would set up final vote late Saturday. The bill currently defunds Obamacare, but Democrats are expected to restore the money.

White House's McDonough heads to Capitol Hill to talk about budget

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough will meet with House Democrats Wednesday night about the budget.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama plans to talk to congressional leaders in the coming days, but he had no details on specific meetings.

On Thursday, Obama will deliver a speech at Prince George’s Community College in Maryland to tout the federal health care law.

"Congress needs to act responsibly and fulfill its obligation to ensure that there is unnecessary wound inflicted on the economy and while we're continuing to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression," Carney told reporters. "That's a message that...we carry to Democrats and Republicans alike." 

Senate vote set for 1 p.m.

The Senate plans to vote around 1 p.m. on whether to cut off debate on budget legislation, ending, at least for now, the marathon talkathon that's been going on since Tuesday afternoon.

Here's some guidance from the Senate Majority Leader's office on what comes next:

"Under Senate Rule 22 (the cloture rule), at noon today the Senate will automatically begin a new legislative day. In practice, this means that the chair will briefly interrupt any senator who is speaking on the floor, the clerk will read a communication to the Senate, and the chair will lead the pledge of allegiance. Once that is done, the Senate will be in a new legislative day. If Senator Cruz remains on his feet, he will still have the floor.

"One hour later, at approximately 1 pm today, the Senate will proceed to vote on cloture on the motion to proceed to the House CR (60 vote threshold). Since this timing is set by rule, this vote will occur regardless of who is speaking on the floor. If cloture is invoked, the Senate will proceed to up to 30 hours of debate followed by a vote on the motion to proceed (simple majority).

"The 30 hours of post-cloture debate time is structured by rule. Senators are permitted to speak for up to 1 hour each. If Republican senators yield their hour to the Republican manager or Republican leader, the manager and leader may yield up to 3 hours to one senator. Any additional commitment of time would require unanimous consent."



"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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