Country Moves Closer to Government Shutdown With Senate Vote

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J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

Storm clouds hang over Capitol Hill on Sept. 27, 2013.

The U.S. government Friday moved one step closer to a possible shutdown, with the Senate rejecting a House-passed bill to continue funding the government in favor of a simpler alternative that did not interfere with ObamaCare.

The Senate sent to the House a “clean” continuing resolution that funds the government at current spending levels, $986 billion a year, through Nov. 15. The  vote, 54 to 44, sends back a bill to the House that Speaker John Boehner has already said he will not accept. If the House and Senate do not reach agreement by Monday, parts of the federal government deemed “non-essential” will cease operation at midnight.

Before the vote, several senators said they have no idea what the House will now do. If it sends back a contentious rebuttal including, for example, a one-year delay of Obamacare’s individual mandate, the Senate and House will be hard pressed to avert the October 1 funding deadline. Some Democratic senators said they would not accept anything but their proposal’s approval from the House.

“I really do believe there is not much room for maneuvering on our side. The way that they’re prepared to close government over moving their agenda rather than regular procedures is something we can’t allow to be successful,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). “There would be no end. Today it’s the Affordable Care Act, tomorrow it will be environmental rules.”

“If it has anything in it that would reward this type of behavior, It’s not going to have my vote,” said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan).

Two weeks ago, Republican House leaders tried to pass a resolution that would have allowed the Senate to reject the amendment defunding Obamacare without the risk of a government shutdown. That proposal led to a backlash from the Republican rank-and-file, who wanted the Senate to be on the record for funding the health care program, large parts of which go into effect in the coming months.

Now some House Republicans are essentially asking for a shutdown, including Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Alabama), who said that he would vote no to his leadership’s plan put forth behind closed doors Thursday in part because it doesn’t include a balanced budget amendment.

“America survived the last 17 government shutdowns,” said Brooks. “The disruptions from a shutdown, although they are things we should avoid, they are short-term. And once their over with, things go back to normal. If you’re a federal employee, typically speaking, you still get paid in full, and you haven’t had to work. And it doesn’t count against your vacation days.”