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Thursday, December 8, 2016

The House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution that would fund the government at sequester levels for 11 weeks and defund the Affordable Care Act, in a near-party-line vote on Friday morning. The resolution passed 230-189; Republican Scott Rigell (R-VA) voted with the Democrats, while Democrats Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Mike McIntyre (D-NC) voted in favor of the measure.

The bill will now proceed to the Senate, where the Democratic majority is certain to strip the anti-Obamacare language from the resolution and send it back to the House.

“Any bill that defunds Obamacare is dead. Dead. It’s a waste of time,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said. By the time the Senate sends a “clean” CR back to the House, there will be less than a week to go until a government shutdown. Shortly thereafter, Congress will have to come to an agreement to raise the debt ceiling, or face a crippling financial crisis.

On the House floor, Republicans insisted that their latest stand against Obamacare — the 42nd attempt to repeal or defund the law — is an important symbolic gesture.

“Let’s defund this law now and protect the American people from the economic calamity Obamacare will create,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) declared.

“For this entire Congress, the House has led on restoring faith in our economy and trust in our government,” Cantor continued. “We should pass this continuing resolution so the Senate can finally begin to do the same.”

Indeed, the politically charged debate over the continuing resolution has exposed deep divisions between House Republicans and their colleagues in the Senate. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), by far the most vocal proponent of a vote to defund Obamacare, has recently come under fire for admitting that he does not have enough votes to pass such a measure in the Senate.

Representative Peter King (R-NY) — who has repeatedly warned that a government shutdown would be a political disaster for the GOP — knocked the freshman Republican before the vote, saying “Hopefully it will be a major step in letting people know that Ted Cruz is a fraud.”

Democrats charged that the obviously hopeless attempt to defund the law is little more than political grandstanding, and almost certain to lead to a government shutdown.

In a heated speech on the floor, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) blasted the Republican budget plan as “a wolf in wolf’s clothing,” and said it is “designed to shut down government. It could have no other intent.”

Pelosi went on to rip the deep cuts to research investments and health programs for children and the elderly cauesd by the sequester. “Either you don’t know what you’re doing,” Pelosi told her Republican colleagues, “or this is one of the most intentional acts of brutality that you have cooked up, with stiff competition for that honor.”

Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) was even more blunt, saying “I invite my colleagues wake up from this radical, ideological wet dream.”

If Congress is unable to come to a budget agreement in the next 10 days, then the government would shut down on October 1. A shutdown would cause about one-third of the federal workforce to be furloughed, and halt “non-essential” government operations. In practice, this could mean severe delays and service cuts for Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries, among many others who rely on the federal government. Overall, the effect on the economy could be calamitous.

Photo: Caroline’s eye via Flickr.com

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