As the deadline approaches, the legislative process has become a game of what Capitol Hill folks call "ping-pong." Step 1: the House sends a volley at the Senate. Step 2: the Senate smacks it and sends it back to the House. Step 3: see Step 1.
We've already seen this back and forth a couple of times over the last 10 days. House Republicans passed a stopgap spending bill, called a "continuing resolution," nearly two weeks ago, which the Senate rejected because it stripped millions of Americans of their health care benefits, and sent back a "clean" bill. House Republicans then passed another CR, which also went after the Affordable Care Act, which the Senate also rejected, and sent back the "clean" bill.
This evening, with about three hours remaining before the shutdown deadline, we saw volley #3 from the lower chamber.
Just hours away from a government shutdown, House GOP leaders sent a new continuing resolution proposal to the Senate on Monday evening in yet another attempt to undermine Obamacare.The House voted 228-201. Twelve Republicans voted against the amendments to the Senate-passed CR, and nine Democrats voted for the GOP plan.
Though the substance doesn't much matter at this point, this third CR intends to delay the individual-mandate provision of the health care for a year -- not to achieve any policy goal, mind you, but because these little things make the right feel warm and fuzzy -- and force congressional staff to pay more for health care for reasons that don't make any sense. (This latter provision is championed by Republican Sen. David Vitter, and it's deeply stupid.)
The Senate, which is now just waiting around for the purpose of rejecting right-wing gimmicks from the House, is expected to reject this third bill within the hour, sending the ping-pong ball back to the lower chamber to again consider its next move.
There are some rumors that the House Republicans' fourth CR will mark the capitulation point -- with time almost out, it'll be time to easily pass the "clean" bill and prevent the shutdown -- but it's hard to say at this point how much of the scuttlebutt is just wishful thinking.
Why belabor this mind-numbing process?
I suspect it has something to do with attack ads -- Republicans want to force Democrats to vote on an unpopular mandate policy (which Republicans originally championed and helped create, with support from the Heritage Foundation), so tonight can be exploited in the midterms.
It's why nine Democrats actually voted for this thing. It's not that these nine actually want a shutdown; it's that they don't want to fall into the campaign trap House Republicans set in lieu of governing. Indeed, if you watched the vote itself, you may have noticed the number of House Dems voting for this CR jumped at the last second -- they were waiting to see if it was going to pass, and once it was clear it had the necessary votes, they figured there was no harm in joining the majority.
In any case, the Senate will vote any minute now, at which point the ball will be back in the House's court.