Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fight Nears over Budget, Health Law

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Fight Nears over Budget, Health Law

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans on Wednesday began hurtling toward an unpredictable collision over the federal budget, as the House planned to vote by Friday to strip money from the national health care law, while the White House readied plans for a government shutdown.

That vote in the Republican-dominated House will set the stage for a spending showdown likely to last for days. Next week, the House plans to unveil another measure aimed at delaying the health care law.

The new federal fiscal year begins Oct. 1, and unless Congress and Mr. Obama agree on a budget, much of the government will be out of business.

The new GOP plan, announced Wednesday, would finance the government but also defund implementation of the 2010 health care law. That is expected to pass the House but stall in the Democratic- led Senate. That's the scenario for stalemate.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that the administration would not accept any health care law delays in order to avoid a shutdown.

The House plan is likely to be phase one of a weeks-long clash over the federal budget, as Democrats look to keep the government open, restore spending cuts known as the sequester and raise the debt ceiling to allow the government to borrow to pay bills already approved by Congress and incurred.

The Republicans, while insisting that they also want to keep the government running, look to kill Obamacare and lock in spending cuts. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, insisted Wednesday that he does not want to shut the government down. "There should be no conversation about shutting the government down," he said.

With no talks under way, the White House Office of Management and Budget asked federal agencies to start contingency planning for a shutdown. Director Sylvia Burwell wrote, " ... [P]rudent management requires that agencies be prepared for the possibility of a lapse."

The influential U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to members warning them of danger if they don't act. "It is not in the best interest of the U.S. business community or the American people to risk even a brief government shutdown that might trigger disruptive consequences or raise new policy uncertainties washing over the U.S. economy," wrote Bruce Josten, the chamber's executive vice president for government affairs.

Wednesday's events were a sharp escalation from recent weeks' calm. Most lawmakers thought a shutdown would rattle the economy, inconvenience constituents and prove politically perilous. House Republican leaders last week wanted separate votes on a budget and on defunding the 2010 health care law. That way, the Senate could approve the budget but turn down the health care measure, and the government would keep running.

Those leaders thought that would give them a twin victory: They could point to senators who voted to keep Obamacare going, but also boast that they themselves kept the government open. …

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