Washington: A conservative challenge to President Barack Obama`s cherished health care law pushed the federal government to the brink of a partial shutdown on Monday, with the Senate expected to convene just hours before a deadline to pass a temporary funding bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has already promised that Democrats will kill a provision introduced by the Republican led-House of Representatives to delay key parts of the health care law for year.
US stock futures fell sharply today morning as the government careened toward closures that would force 800,000 federal workers off the job without pay.
Some critical services would continue, such as border patrols, air traffic controls, and health care programs for the poor and elderly. The State Department would continue processing foreign applications for visas and US applications for passports.
Embassies and consulates overseas would continue to provide services to American citizens.
Since the last government shutdown 17 years ago, temporary funding bills have been noncontroversial, with neither party willing to chance a shutdown to achieve legislative goals it couldn`t otherwise win.
But with the 3-year-old health care law nearing implementation, hardcore tea party conservatives are determined to use the spending bill as leverage to derail Obama`s chief domestic accomplishment.
Even if Congress averts a shutdown, Republicans are sure to move the health care fight to another must-do measure looming in mid-October: a bill to increase the government`s borrowing cap to avert a market-rattling, first-ever default on US obligations.
The health care overhaul, which has come to be known as "Obamacare," is aimed at providing health coverage for millions of uninsured Americans. Exchanges are set to open tomorrow under the law where people can shop for health care coverage from private insurers.
Republicans insist the initiative is already costing jobs and will drive up health care costs. Democrats argue otherwise and accuse Republicans of holding a routine funding measure hostage to unfairly extract concessions.
The battle started with a House vote to pass the short-term funding bill with a provision that would have defunded implementation of the health care overhaul. The Senate voted along party lines to strip that out and lobbed the measure back to the House.
The latest House measure, passed early yesterday by a near party-line vote of 231-192, sent back to the Senate two key changes: a one year delay of key provisions of the health insurance law and repeal of a new tax on medical devices that partially funds it, steps that still go too far for The White House and its Democratic allies.
Senate rules often make it difficult to act quickly, but the chamber can act on the House`s latest proposals by simply calling them up and killing them on a non-debatable motion.
Even some Republicans said privately they feared that Democratic Senate leader Reid holds the advantage in the fast-approaching end game.