WASHINGTON — Lawmakers appeared no closer to a deal to avert a government shutdown after midnight action in the House to delay President Obama’s healthcare law, with both parties trading accusations Sunday about who would be to blame for an impasse.
Neither the House nor Senate planned to meet Sunday, with fewer than 36 hours left to approve a new stopgap spending measure. Instead, members of Congress fanned out to the TV networks’ Sunday news shows to react to mostly party-line votes the House took overnight to again send the spending bill back to the Senate with provisions to undermine the Affordable Care Act. Republicans have insisted that such provisions be part of any deal to keep federal agencies open once the new budget year begins Tuesday.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has assumed a lead role among conservatives in pursuing the “defund or delay” strategy, repeatedly argued Sunday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) now stands in the way of a resolution.
Cruz accused Reid of using “brute political force” to resist any changes in the healthcare law, which Cruz described as the “biggest job-killer in this country.”
“So far Majority Leader Harry Reid has essentially told theHouse of Representatives and the American people, ‘Go jump in a lake,’ ” Cruz said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”
“If we have a shutdown, it will only be because when the Senate comes back, Harry Reid says, ‘I refuse even to talk.’ ”
Reid on Saturday called the Republicans’ latest offer — a one-year delay of the healthcare law and a repeal of a tax that helps pay for it — “pointless.” He vowed the Democratic-led Senate would hold firm against new amendments. The White House has also threatened to veto any changes in the law. A key part of the new healthcare law — online marketplaces that will allow consumers who lack insurance to buy coverage — begins to roll out Tuesday.
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in the chamber, said on CBS’ “Face The Nation” that Democrats are open to considering changes to the health law but “not with a gun to my head.” Durbin supports repeal of the tax that Republicans have targeted — a levy on medical devices — but noted that the plan passed by the House would add to the deficit.
“Let’s sit down in a bipartisan and calm way, not with the prospect of shutting down the government or shutting down the economy,” he said.
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