House Funding Vote Likely To Put GOP In A Bind

At the insistence of Tea Party senators, the Republican-led House passed a government-funding plan that also defunds the Affordable Care Act. Now it heads to the Senate, where Democrats will likely take out health care language and send it right back.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

The House passed a bill that would keep the government funded through the middle of December, would also defund the Affordable Care Act, a provision conservatives demanded be added to the bill. After it passed, House Republicans and Speaker John Boehner presented an image of unity, gathering for a rally in the Capitol.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: You know, we had a victory today for the American people, and, frankly, we also had a victory for common sense.

CORNISH: From here, the bill heads to the Senate where the health care law provisions will almost certainly be stripped out. We're joined by NPR congressional correspondent Tamara Keith, who's been following all of the twists and turns. And, Tamara, House Republicans, obviously, declaring victory today, but it would seem like this is only the beginning. I mean, what happens next?

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: My theory here is that they are celebrating victory while they can. It's not likely that they're going to get another chance anytime soon. And that's because Senate Democrats have already made it entirely clear that they are not going to a pass bill that defunds the Affordable Care Act. And so that rally today, a number of speakers got up and said the House has acted now. It's up to the Senate. In fact, even on the podium, there was a sign with the hash tag Senate must act. That's a dig at the Democrats, but it's also a dig at Republicans in the Senate.

CORNISH: So when will the Senate take this up?

KEITH: The Senate is out until Monday, and it doesn't have any votes scheduled until Tuesday. And then the Senate has all of these sort of arcane rules that will slow the process down, like hours of waiting before they can even move to debate on the bill. And then there's the question of whether senators like Texas Republican Ted Cruz will try to block or filibuster or do something to stop Senate Democrats from stripping out this Obamacare provision. It's not clear he has enough support among Republicans to actually do that in part because taking that vote would put senators on the record, saying that, yes, they are willing to shut the government down over this.

CORNISH: So let's assume Senator Cruz doesn't succeed at blocking the bill. Then what's likely to happen?

KEITH: Senate Democrats will strip out the Obamacare language and send back what they call a clean CR, that is a continuing resolution that keeps the government's lights on and nothing else. One question is whether the Senate would try to change the funding levels or mess around with it, but it seems most likely they wouldn't do that. So sometime late next week or maybe even into the weekend, with hours rather than days until a partial government shutdown, the House will be handed a bill that keeps the government open and doesn't defund Obamacare. And that's when the House Republican unity that we saw this morning will be tested. You know, it could come down to deciding whether to get blamed for a government shutdown or to alienate conservative Republicans who say, you know, we must defund and destroy the House care law.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Tamara Keith. Tamara, thank you.

KEITH: You're welcome.

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