The outcome was never really in doubt, but there’s still something amazing about watching far-right lawmakers come up with a ridiculous scheme and then follow through on it.
The Republican-led House passed a stop-gap spending bill Friday that’s destined to die in the Senate, raising the likelihood of a government shutdown that would close national parks, halt soldiers’ paychecks, hold up student loan requests and otherwise set off a freeze on federal operations.
The House bill, called a CR or continuing resolution, keeps the government funded through Dec. 15 as a broader budget deal is hammered out, but it also strips all funding from the Obama administration’s health care law – a non-starter with the White House and the Democrat-controlled Senate.
The final tally was 230 to 189, with one Republican voting against the measure and two Democrats voting for it. As advertised, the proposal, initially opposed by GOP leaders but demanded by the party’s rank-and-file extremists, leaves in place the sequestration spending cuts that are undermining the economy by design and defunds the Affordable Care Act. [Update: Here’s the roll call. The sole Republican to vote against the measure was Virginia’s Scott Rigell.]
The temporary spending measure, known as a “continuing resolution” (or CR), will now go to the Democratic-led Senate, which, after it finishes laughing, will reject the House bill. Whether the Senate intends to simply accept the House version after restoring the health care funds, or will craft a new alternative of its own, is unclear, though we’ll find out early next week.
There are lingering rumors that some of the more radical Senate Republicans – led, of course, by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) – may try to filibuster any legislative progress in the upper chamber, but the obstructionism would only delay the inevitable. A wide variety of GOP senators have said repeatedly in recent days that neither a shutdown nor defunding the health care law are realistic scenarios for senators to take seriously.
Expect the tensions between House Republicans and Senate Republicans to continue to escalate as this process unfolds.
Regardless, once the Senate passes its measure, the issue will return to the House for a final up-or-down decision: either the Republican-led chamber shuts down the government out of spite or they pass the Senate version. The smart money is on the latter, but time is short – the deadline is Sept. 30 – and there obviously are no guarantees.
If the shutdown is averted, Congress will immediately turn its attention to the next unnecessary, self-imposed nightmare – the Republicans’ debt-ceiling crisis – which will have to be resolved over the next three to four weeks before the government defaults and undermines the full faith and credit of the United States for the first time ever.
Update: Also note, this marks vote #42 in the tally of instances in which House Republicans have voted to gut the Affordable Care Act. Presumably, the far-right lawmakers believe votes 1 through 41 left too many unanswered questions about the GOP’s true intentions.