The U.S. government edged closer to a shutdown Saturday as Republicans in the House of Representatives promised to reject an emergency spending bill approved by the Senate and push instead for a one year delay of President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law.
In the latest round of high-stakes brinkmanship between Democrats and Republicans, Republican leaders said after a closed-door meeting that the House would vote on Saturday afternoon on their latest plan to scuttle the healthcare law, known as “Obamacare.”
Democrats in the Senate have already defeated one House proposal to derail Obamacare and have vowed to do so again.
Since the healthcare measure is attached to a must-pass bill to continue funding the government when the fiscal year ends at midnight on Monday, its failure would close down much of the government for the first time since 1996.
For good measure, Republicans said they would also approve a bill repealing a tax on medical devices that helps fund the healthcare law.
In an effort to signal their seriousness about a shutdown, as well as cover themselves from political fallout, Republicans said they would separately approve a bill to ensure that members of the U.S. military continue to get paid if government funding is cut off.
In a government shutdown, spending for functions considered essential, related to national security or public safety, would continue along with benefit programs such as Medicare health insurance and Social Security retirement benefits for seniors.
But hundreds of thousands of civilian federal employees -from people who process forms and handle regulatory proceedings to workers at national parks and museums in Washington – would be furloughed.
The healthcare law, set for launch on Tuesday, will provide insurance coverage for millions of uninsured Americans through exchanges.
Republicans object strongly to Obamacare, calling it a massive and unnecessary government intrusion into medicine that will damage the economy.
The last government shutdown ran from December 16, 1995 to January 6, 1996 and was the product of a budget battle between Democratic President Bill Clinton and Republicans, led by then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.