CONGRESS ; House Bill Avoids Shutdown, Kills Insurance Law

By Espo, David | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), September 21, 2013 | Go to article overview

CONGRESS ; House Bill Avoids Shutdown, Kills Insurance Law


Espo, David, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


WASHINGTON - Charting a collision course with the White House, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved legislation Friday to wipe out the three-year-old health-care law that President Obama has vowed to preserve - and simultaneously prevent a partial government shutdown that neither party claims to want.

"The American people don't want the government shut down, and they don't want Obamacare, Speaker John Boehner said as members of his rank and file cheered at a celebratory rally in the Capitol moments after the 230-189 vote. He stood at a lectern bearing a slogan that read, "#Senate must act."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said it will - but not the way Boehner and his tea party-heavy Republican contingent want. Assured of enough Senate votes to keep the government open and the health- care law in existence, the Nevada Democrat accused Republicans of attempting "to take an entire law hostage simply to appease the tea party anarchists."

Behind the rhetoric lay the likelihood of another in a series of complex, inside-the-Beltway brinkmanship episodes as conservative House Republicans and Obama struggle to imprint widely differing views on the U.S. government.

In addition to the threat of a partial shutdown a week from Monday, administration officials say that, without passage of legislation to allow more federal borrowing, the nation faces the risk of a first-ever default sometime in the second half of next month.

House Republicans intend to vote to raise the nation's debt limit next week to prevent that from happening, but they have said they will include a one-year delay in Obamacare in the measure to reinforce their determination to eradicate the program.

The same bill will include provisions to reduce deficits and stay the administration's environmental agenda as the GOP seeks gains for its own priorities. Raising the cost of Medicare for financially better-off beneficiaries is one likely provision to be added, according to numerous officials. So, too, is a ban on federal regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.

Obama responded in remarks before an audience at a Ford assembly plant near Kansas City, Mo. He blamed a "faction on the far right of the Republican Party" for threatening to shut down government operations or default on government debts.

"They're focused on trying to mess with me," he told plant workers. "They're not focused on you."

Unlike other budget showdowns of the recent past, this one pits younger Republicans in the House against GOP veterans in the Senate, although not to the extent it does one party against the other.

Republicans are united in their opposition to the health-care law, which they say will force the price of coverage higher and prompt employers to reduce work hours for workers. They disagree on how to attack it.

The bill that won passage Friday was all but forced on Boehner and fellow House GOP leaders, who fear a repeat of the twin government shutdowns nearly two decades ago that inflicted serious political damage on Republicans. …

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