With three days to go before a possible government shutdown, the Senate voted 54 to 44 to pass the budget bill that would keep the federal government funded at a $986 billion budget through November 15.
The bill to fund the federal government has stalled mainly due to partisan battles over Obamacare; Republicans hope to use the bill to defund Obamacare. If the government doesn’t pass the bill by October 1, there will be a shutdown.
“Any bill that continues to play political games will force a government shutdown,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, said Friday.
The bill will now return to the House, where conservatives will either accept the bill or try to amend it again. Republicans have been threatening government shutdown in order to gut funding for Obamacare.
Responsibility now rests with House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, who will either continue pushing to undermine the health care law (accepting a government shutdown in the meantime), or will accept the Senate bill that would fund the government through mid-November without the conservative policy additions.
Reid believes that the Senate will never accept a bill that defunds Obamacare. “We are going to accept nothing as it relates to Obamacare,” Reid said Friday. “There’s a time and place for everything, and this is not that place.”
Conservatives still hope to make a compromise with Senate Democrats involving several changes to the health care law with the intent of weakening it, such as the repeal of a tax on medical devices.
Meanwhile, President Obama has called for an end to partisan deadlock. “Over the next three days, House Republicans will have to decide whether to join the Senate and keep the government open, or shut it down just because they can’t get their way,” Obama said Friday at the White House. “This grandstanding has real effects on real people.”
During a government shutdown, only essential programs would continue running – those such as air traffic control systems, food inspections and Medicare. National parks and museums would be closed, however; millions of federal workers considered “non-essential” could be left without paychecks, and several hundred thousand furloughed. Passport and visa applications would be placed on hold.
During government shutdowns in November and December 1995, when President Clinton was battling Congress over budget, the shutdowns costed taxpayers around $1.4 billion, according to estimates.
“This is it. Time is gone,” Senator Reid said. “Here’s a president who less than a year ago won election by five million votes. Obamacare has been the law for four years. Why don’t they get a life and talk about something else?”