House Republicans not only gathered on a weekend to take a vote that moves the government even closer to a shutdown, they did it in the dead of night.
The Republican-controlled House voted around midnight on Saturday to keep the government open for a few more months in exchange for punting the rollout of Obamacare for a year – the kind of shot at the health care law conservatives had wanted for weeks, even if it’s sure to be rejected by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The decision makes nearly inevitable a government shutdown on Oct. 1, not only leaving nearly a 800,000 federal workers at risk for furloughs but jeopardizing the fragile economic recovery. On the same day, Americans will still be able to begin signing up for health insurance through new government exchanges created by the health care law Republicans were hoping to defund.
Still, conservatives savored what they saw as a victory Saturday afternoon—cheering and applauding loudly enough to be heard through closed doors during a conference meeting in the Capitol.
Rep. John Culberson of Texas told MSNBC Saturday of the decision to take a shot a at Obamacare: ”I said, like 9/11, ‘let’s roll!’”
Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas successfully included a “conscience clause” to the bill that would allow employers to opt out of including contraception in their medical coverage if they object to it for moral or religious reasons. Crafts store Hobby Lobby currently has a test case challenging the contraception mandate before the Supreme Court.
And while the vote itself didn’t happen during prime time hours, they’ll have to respond early Sunday, when key players hit the news talk shows to explain how the House is going to stave off a government shutdown, since the Senate and Obama aren’t budging on anything short of a funding bill with no strings attached.
First up will be Sen. Ted Cruz, a Tea Party firebrand from Texas who inspired House Republicans to draw such a hard line. Cruz will appear on Meet the Press.
The question for Cruz and others will be: so what’s next?
No action is scheduled in the House or Senate on Sunday. It’s unclear if Reid will even hold a vote on the latest Republican bill. He called the bill “pointless.”
Boehner has resisted a version of the spending bill passed in the Senate that keeps the government open without touching Obamacare – the only version Reid says he’ll accept.
The White House has threatened to veto any bill that touches the health care law, which is set to rollout on Oct. 1.
“The House is about to shut down the government – nothing more, nothing less,” Dan Pfieffer, senior adviser to the president said Saturday afternoon. When the Senate takes up the House’s bill, it will only be to swiftly and roundly reject it. When the burden of backing down shifts back to John Boehner and the House’s most conservative members, it will likely be too late to avert a shutdown.