With a government shutdown two days away, House Republicans powered their latest stopgap spending bill through the chamber early Sunday morning, trying yet again to put a dent in Obamacare while vowing they don't want a shutdown.
Aided by some Democrats, the GOP passed legislation to repeal a widely despised Obamacare tax on medical devices, to halt the entire health law for a year, and to ensure troops get paid even if the government shuts down.
The votes send the spending bill back to the Senate, though Majority Leader Harry Reid called the moves "pointless" and has already ruled out negotiating on any of the Obamacare measures. He said he will not accept any strings attached to a bill to keep the government open past the midnight Monday deadline.
House Republican leaders, meanwhile, have said they must have conditions attached.
That leaves no middle ground for talks, and both sides accusing the other of trying to scuttle the government.
"If this government shuts down, it's because you have not accepted the compromise," Rep. Dana Rohrabacher told his Democratic colleagues on the House floor.
The vote to repeal the medical device tax while funding the rest of government was 248-174, with 17 Democrats joining the GOP — a vote that could signal a potential bipartisan area of agreement. But Mr. Reid has sent his fellow senators home and told them not to return until Monday afternoon, with just 10 hours to go before the midnight deadline for passing a bill.
The full one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act also passed on a 231-192 vote, with two lawmakers on each side defecting.
Most Democrats objected to the entire exercise.
Democratic Rep. David Scott said that the GOP was so blinded by hatred for President Obama that they could not accept his health care law, even though it has survived more than 40 other House votes to repeal it in whole or in part.
And Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer said Republicans were fighting a battle they've already lost.
"We won the debate in the election. Not on this floor, but n the election. But you refuse to accept the results of the election," the Maryland Democrat said.
For its part, the White House issued a statement vowing to veto the House Republican bill, should it get that far.
Fiscal year 2013 ends on Monday, and Congress and Mr. Obama must agree on a new spending bill to keep basic government operations going. Those basic operations range from national parks to new clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health to processing of new benefit claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Benefit checks for Medicare and Social Security would still go out, the Border Patrol and air traffic controllers would remain on the job, and other essential employees would still have to show up for work.
House Republicans passed two different versions of legislation to keep the government open. One would enact a one-year delay of the entire health law, while the other would repeal a tax on medical devices — everything from oxygen tanks to wheelchairs — that is part of the health law.
Both bills would keep the government funded through Dec. 15, or a month longer than Senate Democrats proposed in their bill, which passed on a party-line 54-46 vote on Friday.
The House also passed a bill to ensure that American troops continue to get paid in the event of a government shutdown. That passed unanimously, though lawmakers from the Washington region, who represent large numbers of federal workers, said they wished all employees were included in the bill.
"This bill does not cover the FBI. It doesn't cover CIA," Mr. Hoyer said.
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