US braces for health row shutdown
on 29/09/2013 19:17:41
If the midnight Monday deadline passes without a deal, a shutdown would affect a wide range of government programmes, from national parks to the Pentagon.
President Obama and the leader of the Democratic-controlled Senate dismissed a late developing plan approved early on Sunday by the Republican-run House of Representatives.
The plan would delay by a year implementing key parts of the new health care law and repeal a tax on many medical devices that helps finance the 2010 measure, in exchange for avoiding a shutdown.
The White House promised a veto and said Republicans were pursuing "a narrow ideological agenda ... and pushing the government toward shutdown." It seemed unlikely the president would get the chance to veto the bill because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate would reject the measure.
It was another of the paralysing fiscal fights that have dominated Washington in recent years, underscoring the deep divide between the Republicans and the Obama administration and its Democratic allies. The two sides have managed in the past to come up with last-minute compromises to avoid a government shutdown.
Politicians spoke past one another on the Sunday talk shows, often rehashing the turbulent fights about the health care overhaul, often called "Obamacare," that the Supreme Court has upheld, as the nation edged toward the first government shutdown in 17 years.
"I agree we should have this debate, but we shouldn't connect it to a government shutdown. That's the fundamental disagreement between the two sides here," said Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia.
"We're not going to pass it because it is wrong to do a shutdown of government as the lever to make a change."
The House's near party-line vote was 231-192, shifting the focus to the Democratic-run Senate less than 48 hours before government funds would run dry.
Even if that happens, some critical services such patrolling the borders, inspecting meat and controlling air traffic would continue. Social Security benefits would be sent and the Medicare and Medicaid health care programmes for the elderly and poor would continue to pay doctors and hospitals.
The Senate was not scheduled to meet until mid-afternoon on Monday, 10 hours before a shutdown would begin, and even some Republicans said privately they feared that Senate Democratic leader Reid held the advantage in the fast-approaching end game.
If so, a House Republican rank and file that includes numerous allies of the ultraconservative tea party movement would have to choose between triggering a shutdown or coming away empty-handed from their latest confrontation with Mr Obama.
"We will not shut the government down," said the No. 3 House Republican leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California. "If we have to negotiate a little longer, we will continue to negotiate," he added.