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With shutdown looming, Senate returns to work after Reid vows to reject House spending bill

With what would be the first government shutdown in 17 years due to take effect at midnight Tuesday, the Senate will return to business Monday afternoon to consider House Republicans' weekend spending-bill offer, which the chamber's ranking Democrat has vowed to reject.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had made his feelings on the bill, which includes an amendment providing for a one-year delay in the implementation of ObamaCare, known even before the House approved the measure early Sunday morning. Throughout the day Sunday, House Republican leaders chided Reid and others in the Democrat-led chamber for not hustling back to Capitol Hill to negotiate a compromise.

“O Senate, where art thou,” said Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, riffing on the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou.”

In a package of weekend votes, the House also agreed to an amendment to repeal the health care law’s medical-device tax and voted in favor of a bill to pay the military on time should a shutdown occur.

Just hours after House Republicans announced their plan Saturday afternoon, the White House vowed President Obama would veto it and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made clear it was unacceptable.

“To be absolutely clear, the Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical device tax," Reid said. "After weeks of futile political games from Republicans, we are still at square one."

On Sunday, Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson called the House votes “empty political stunts” and said, “Tomorrow, the Senate will do exactly what we said we would do and reject these measures.”

The Senate is scheduled to convene at 2 p.m. Monday and Reid is expected to move quickly against the House legislation. Reid is not subject to a filibuster while doing so, and the bill is likely to be voted down with the support of the Senate's Democratic majority. The House is due to convene at 10 a.m. Monday, but it is believed that GOP leaders will wait on Senate action before sending any alternate proposals to the upper chamber. 

Blackburn made her comments along with other members of the House Republican Conference at an informal press conference on the steps of Capitol Hill.

“That the senators are not here … is all that everyone needs to know,” said Arkansas Republican Rep. Tim Griffin. “Democrats want to shutdown the government. … That’s a scorched earth policy.”

Grifffin and others tried to recast the blame for a possible shutdown on Democrats who have argued Republicans’ insistence on tying a spending bill to ObamaCare is intended to force a shutdown.

“Today we see where the Senate doors are shut,” said conference Chairwoman and Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. “Harry Reid says that a shutdown is inevitable.”

House Speaker John Boehner was among the first to put the burden of responsibility back on the Senate.

“Now that the House has again acted, it’s up to the Senate to pass this bill without delay to stop a government shutdown,” the Ohio Republican said after the weekend votes. “Let’s get this done.”

The government would technically run out of money Monday night should Congress fail to pass a spending bill -- resulting in a partial government shutdown that would begin with hundreds of thousands of government workers likely being sent home from work without pay.

The government would still keep open operations and agencies that protect “life and limb,” but national parks would likely close right away and other non-essential programs would also be temporarily shut down.

There have been 17 government shutdowns, the most recent lasting from Dec. 16, 1995, to Jan. 6, 1996 -- the longest in U.S. history.

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy said Sunday morning the chamber has several last-minute options to avoid a government shutdown should the Senate reject the most recent House plan.

The California Republican insisted the proposal can indeed pass in the Senate but acknowledged having an alternative plan.

“You assume they won’t vote for it. Let’s have that debate,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” But “we have other options for the Senate to look at.”

Earlier this month, the Senate rejected a House spending bill to defund ObamaCare, despite a filibuster-style effort by Tea Party-backed, Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz.

McCarthy declined to tell Fox News whether one of the proposals would be passing a so-called “clean” spending bill, or continuing resolution, which would keep open the government for a few days until Congress agrees on a longer-term plan. But he insisted the House will not be responsible for a shutdown and that it will offer a proposal with Democratic support.

“We are not shutting the government down,” he said. “While the president was out playing golf [Saturday], we were here until 1 a.m. We will pass a bill that reflects this House. … I think there'll be additions that Democrats can support.”

Right now, the House bill covers government spending through Dec. 15, while the Senate bill goes through Nov. 15.