Government Heads Toward Shutdown

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The U.S. Capitol was seen under dark clouds in Washington, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013.   Associated Press

Senate Doesn’t Reconvene Until Monday Afternoon, Hours Before Deadline

(WSJ) WASHINGTON—The nation braced for a partial shutdown of the federal government, as time for Congress to pass a budget before a Monday midnight deadline grew perilously short and lawmakers gave no signs Sunday they were moving toward a resolution.

Leaders of both parties said they wanted to avoid the first federal closure since 1996, but their public appearances seemed aimed more at affixing blame for the impasse.

House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) urged Senate leaders to pass legislation that the Republican-controlled House had approved early Sunday morning, which would fund the government through mid-December. But that prospect was remote, as the House legislation included a one-year delay of the new federal health law that Democrats have vowed to reject, as well as a repeal of the new law’s tax on medical devices.

Democrats say Mr. Boehner himself could end the stalemate quickly by asking the House to pass the Senate plan for extending federal funding, which includes no provisions aimed at the health law.

Such a move would anger conservatives in Mr. Boehner’s ranks and likely materialize only at the last minute, after keeping up the fight against the health law to the end. But it would bring relief to the many Republicans who fear that the public would hand their party the largest share of blame for a shutdown.

The tense maneuvering surrounded a bill that otherwise might be uncontroversial: an extension of current funding for the government for the early months of the new fiscal year, which begins Tuesday. But a determined faction of conservative Republicans has argued that the deadline gives the party its best opportunity for derailing the new health law before one of its central elements, health-insurance marketplaces for individuals, are launched Tuesday.

Some Republicans held out hope that the prospect of a government shutdown would pressure Senate Democrats to make even a symbolic concession to their demand for changes in the Affordable Care Act, perhaps by agreeing to the repeal of the medical-device tax intended to help fund the law.

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