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House votes to keep government open, defund ObamaCare

 

The House voted Friday to keep the government open through mid-December but only if Congress strips funding from ObamaCare.

The vote was 230 to 189, and largely expected.

Current funding for the government is set to expire at the end of the month, and lawmakers must approve the stopgap bill in order to keep Washington open.

The GOP measure would fund the government through Dec. 15, at current funding levels.

“Today, the constitutional conservatives in the House are keeping their word to our constituents and our nation to stand true to our principles, to protect them from the most unpopular law ever passed in the history of the country-  ObamaCare- that intrudes on their privacy and our most sacred right as Americans to be left alone,” Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, said on the House floor.

The vote sets the stage for a showdown next week in the Democratic-led Senate. Realistically, the chance of the measure surviving a Senate vote is slim to none. One Senate Democrat has already announced the bill dead on arrival and called Friday’s vote a “waste of time.”

"Republicans are simply postponing for a few days the inevitable choice they must face: pass a clean bill to fund the government, or force a shutdown,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement following the vote. “I have said it before but it seems to bear repeating: the Senate will not pass any bill that defunds or delays Obamacare.”

The Senate is in recess until Tuesday.

At a noon rally on Capitol Hill, House Speaker John Boehner said the House vote speaks to the popularity of the Affordable Care Act – known as ObamaCare.

“You've got businesses all over the country who are not hiring because of the impact of this law,” he said. “You've got other businesses who are reducing the hours for their employees because of this law. And so, our message to the United States Senate is real simple: the American people don't want to the government shut down and they don't want ObamaCare.”

The House measure would replace ObamaCare with a plan that expands tax breaks for Americans who buy their own insurance, setting the stage for a showdown with Senate Democrats that could push the government toward a partial shutdown at the end of the month.

More than 140 congressional Republicans signed on to the bill to keep the government running at existing funding levels and delay the health care law.

Democrats have vowed to oppose that bill, warning the strategy risks a government shutdown, with funding set to expire by Oct. 1.

Under the proposal, Americans who purchase coverage through state-run exchanges can claim a $7,500 deduction against their income and payroll taxes, regardless of the cost of the insurance.

Families could deduct $20,000. The plan also increases government funding for high-risk pools.
One day after conceding that the Democratic-controlled Senate probably would prevail in stripping the health law provision, Sen. Ted Cruz still vowed to do "everything and anything possible to defund ObamaCare." That includes a possible filibuster of legislation to prevent a partial government shutdown, the Texas Republican said.

Cruz, one of the most vocal supporters of the “de-fund ObamaCare” push, startled his House colleagues when he released a written statement Wednesday afternoon that appeared to acknowledge the bill will probably fail in the Senate.

“Harry Reid will no doubt try to strip the defund language from the continuing resolution, and right now he likely has the votes to do so. At that point, House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground, and continue to listen to the American people,” he said.

House Republican aides said rank-and-file lawmakers on the House floor at the time vented their anger at what appeared to be a pre-emptive surrender.

Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., tweeted that Lee and Cruz "refuse to fight. Wave white flag and surrender."

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., tweeted, "Senate R's already declare defeat... before the battle even begins. So much for standing up for the American people."

Internal divisions have plagued Republicans this year as they struggle to produce alternatives to the Obama plan. Legislation backed by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to increase funding for high-risk pools was pulled without a vote after some conservatives objected to improving ObamaCare at a time when they want to repeal it.

Obama and Democrats frequently criticize Republicans for focusing so much attention on repeal efforts without coming up with an alternative.

A senior GOP leadership aide said Wednesday they don't expect this dissension to blow up the bill in the House on Friday. But they are concerned about where things are going now if the GOP senators don't defend their turf.

The legislation includes a number of proposals that Republicans long have backed to expand access and hold down the cost of health care, including features that permit companies to sell policies across state lines and that let small businesses join together to seek better rates from insurers.

In addition, awards for pain and suffering, emotional distress and similar noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases would be capped at $250,000, unless a state had a higher cap.
No overall cost estimates for the bill were available.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.