On brink of shutdown, all’s quiet at Capitol

Both sides are running out of time and options, and neither appears willing to give an inch.


WASHINGTON — The Senate is expected to reject decisively a House bill passed over the weekend that would delay the full effect of President Barack Obama’s health care law as a condition for keeping the government running past Monday. Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader, expressed confidence that he had public opinion on his side.

Angering Republicans who lead the House, Reid kept the Senate shuttered Sunday in a calculated move to delay action on the House measure until Monday afternoon, just hours before the government’s spending authority runs out at midnight.

“Unlock those doors, I say to Harry Reid,” said Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., who stood on the steps of the empty Senate on Sunday with about a dozen of her House colleagues. “Come out and do your job.”

But Reid, D-Nev., sees little incentive or political advantage in bowing to those demands. He has managed to hold his 54-member caucus together so far. And because of support from some Senate Republicans who have called it a mistake for House Republicans to try to force changes to the health care law in an unrelated fight over the budget, Reid’s hand has been strengthened.

The Senate on Monday is expected to send back to the House a “clean” budget bill, stripped of its provisions to delay the full effect of the health care law, repeal a tax on medical devices and allow businesses to opt out of contraception coverage for their employees.

Republicans would then face a difficult choice. House Speaker John Boehner could risk the ire of his more conservative members and put the Senate bill on the floor for a straight up or down vote, a route that his more moderate members have begun urging him to take.

Asked whether he could vote for a “clean” temporary funding bill, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said he couldn’t. But Labrador added, “I think there’s enough people in the Republican Party who are willing to do that. And I think that’s what you’re going to see.”

The Republican House leadership indicated Sunday that it was planning to amend whatever the Senate sends back Monday — and quickly.

“I think the House will get back together in enough time, send another provision not to shut the government down, but to fund it,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the majority whip. “And it will have a few other options in there for the Senate to look at again.”

The Associated Press contributed.

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