The Senate voted down on Monday afternoon, Sept. 30, 2013 the House of Representative's second spending bill that would have kept the government funded for three months, but also included provisions to delay elements of Obamacare, the new healthcare law that is suppose to begin being implemented on Oct. 1, 2013. President Barack Obama later spoke at the White House about the impact of the Congressional votes, warning them against imminent partial government shutdown that would commence at midnight on Oct. 1, 2013 if a continuing resolution spending bill would not be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President before then.
The House of Representatives announced on Saturday, Sept. 28 that they would be rejecting the Senate's bill passed the day before. Their second proposed bill added provisions that would delay the healthcare law's implementation by a year and other spending provisions associated with the law, including repealing a 2.3% medical devices tax. In the early hours on Sunday, Sept. 29, after working all day Saturday on the bill, the House voted along party lines 231 to 192 in favor of the new spending bill and voted 248 to 174 to repeal the tax, then sending the bills back to the Senate.
Then on Monday afternoon, Sept. 30 only 25 minutes after convening on the issue, the Senate voted 54 to 46 along party lines against the House's bill, voting to rid the spending bill of the House's added provisions. Even if the Senate would have passed the bill, Obama promised he would veto any bill that delays or defunds Obamacare.
President Barack Obama later spoke to the press from the White House Press Briefing Room. He reiterated many of the themes and phrases he has used in the past two weeks to discuss the issue.
In his statement he blamed the House Republicans for putting the economic recovery at risk with a government shutdown. Obama stated; "A shutdown will have a very real economic impact on real people, right away. Past shutdowns have disrupted the economy significantly. This one would too. It would throw a wrench into the gears of our economy at a time when those gears have gained some traction."
Earlier in the afternoon however, Obama told the press that "I am not at all resigned [to a government shutdown];" he still believed it was possible to avoid it all and come to agreement over the continuing resolution to keep the government open.
The President criticized the House Republicans for not doing their job, to pass a budget and fund the government, but was still insistent the continuing resolution needs to be a clean bill with no added provisions. Obama scolded; "It does not have to happen. All of this is entirely preventable if the House chooses to do what the Senate has already done, and that's the simple act of funding our government without making extraneous and controversial demands in the process."
President Obama was especially referring to the Tea Party factions as he has been doing for the past two weeks. Obama said; "One faction of one party in one house of Congress in one branch of government doesn't get to shut down the entire government just to refight the results of an election. Keeping the people's government open is not a concession to meet. You don't get to extract a ransom for doing your job, for doing what you're supposed to be doing anyway. Or just because there's a law there that you don't like. The American people sent us here to govern."
Obama stated he was still hopeful that an agreement could be reached to avert a crisis; "Congress needs to keep our government open. It needs to pay our bills on time and never, ever threaten the full faith and credit of the United States of America. And time's running out. My hope and expectation is that in the 11th hour once again that Congress will choose to do the right thing and that the House of Representatives in particular will choose the right thing."
The President promised that even if the House wants to delay or defund the healthcare law it will continue being implemented; "No matter what Congress decides to do today. The Affordable Care Act is moving forward. That funding is already in place. You can't shut it down. This is a law that passed both houses of Congress, a law that bears my signature, a law that the Supreme Court upheld as constitutional, a law that voters chose not to repeal last November."
The President despite his rhetorical flourishes refused any negotiations with the House Republicans to attempt to solve the problem and prevent a shutdown. All he did yet again with his statement is blame the House Republicans, while acting that he was not at all responsible for the impending shutdown, which he is in his insistence for a clean spending bill no matter how dire the consequences.
On Friday, Sept. 27, the Senate passed along party lines 54 to 44 a stop-gap bill that would fund the government for the next six weeks until Nov. 15, but it also includes funding Obamacare. The Senate then sent it back to the House to vote on it. The Senate bill passed even though Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX staged a 21-hour speech in the Senate arguing against Obama's healthcare law from Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 24 to noon on Wednesday; a marathon speech that most Senate Republicans opposed.
The House voted for their second stop-gap spending bill option on Friday, Sept. 20. The law would keep the government functioning until December at last year's budget of $986 billion, but also defunded Obamacare. The House voted for the most part along party lines 230 to 189, with very few exceptions.
There have been a total of 17 government shutdowns in American history between the 1970s and 1990s, with the December-January, 1995-1996 shutdown being the longest clocking in at 21 days. Then as now a Democratic President Bill Clinton was in a fierce ideological battle with a Republican House of Representatives.
With all parties locking heads and no negotiations or concessions in sight, the country will most probably see its first government shutdown in 17 years. President Obama and Congress were able to avert a shutdown during the last battle in 2011, because the President was willing to negotiate with Congress; discussions and reasoning averted a crisis then, but without that now no conciliatory spending bill will pass at the last minute to save the day.
President Barack Obama's Statement on Avoiding a Government Shutdown, Sept. 30, 2013.
- Budget Showdown: Complete Guide to Political Lingo, ABC News, Sept. 27, 2013
Senate Vote Ends Debate on Stopgap Spending Measure, NYT, Sept. 27, 2013 -- Full text of the bill »
- House Passes Stopgap Spending Bill with No Health Law Funding, NYT, Sept, 20, 2013 -- Full text of the bill »
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are US, Canadian & Israeli politics.