Yesterday afternoon, House Republicans announced their intention to vote to add a one-year delay of Obamacare and a repeal of the medical device tax that helps pay for it to the government funding bill the Senate approved on Friday. While the amendments have no chance of getting through Democrat-controlled Senate, the GOP followed through with their plan late last night. The House voted 231-192 to delay Obamacare (with the help of two Democrats) and 248-174 to repeal the medical device tax (seventeen Democrats went for that one). They also unanimously voted for a separate bill to pay members of the military in the event of a government shutdown, which is where this whole thing is now headed: The Senate will not be back at work to reject the House’s changes until Monday afternoon, leaving the deeply divided Congress with only a few hours to come up with a new solution before the government shutdown kicks in at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday.
Some Republicans are attempting to argue that approving the amendments was not essentially a vote for a shutdown, though that idea is a hard sell. During an appearance on today’s Meet the Press, GOP Senator Ted Cruz, whose obsessive fight against Obamacare has served as an inspiration to his House counterparts, blamed the impending impasse on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “If we have a shutdown, it will be because Harry Reid holds that absolutist position and essentially holds the American people hostage,” he said. “He says, ‘I’m not willing to compromise, I’m not willing to even talk. His position is 100 percent of Obamacare must be funded in all instances. Other than that, he’s going to shut the government down.” On Face the Nation, his colleague Rand Paul insisted, “We are the party that’s willing to compromise. They are the party that says, no way, we’re not touching Obamacare.”
Republican Representative Marsha Blackburn said something similar about President Obama himself, also on Face the Nation: “We would love for him to sit down and say, ‘Okay there are some problems with Obamacare.’ We’ve been met with this attitude of no negotiation. Don’t want to sit down. Don’t want to talk about this. It’s my way or the high way.” Another Republican congressman, Raul Labrador, tried a slightly different approach on Meet the Press: “I think everybody agrees that this is a loser for us,” he explained. “That’s why I think the president and the Democrats want to shut down the government.” On Fox News Sunday, House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy maintained that, “We will not shut the government down. If we have to negotiate a little bit longer, we will continue to negotiate,” possibly by extending government financing for a couple days, though that seems unlikely.
While the shutdown would put at least 800,000 federal works on furlough (and close national parks, slow the processing of visas and passports, and a bunch of other things), it would not stop Obamacare’s new healthcare exchanges from starting to sign up customers on Tuesday. That’s not exactly irony, but it sure sounds frustrating for certain Republicans.