House Takes On Temporary Spending Bill
ARUN RATH, HOST:
From NPR West, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Arun Rath.
Since the Affordable Care Act was passed four years ago, the House has voted more than 40 times to repeal or defund all or part of it. At this hour, the House once again is set to vote on a measure that would delay the rollout of Obamacare for a year. That is one of two amendments the House Republicans are adding to a bill that would keep the government open for business past Monday. Without a stopgap spending bill, a partial government shutdown will begin on Tuesday.
NPR's congressional correspondent Tamara Keith is on Capitol Hill. We'll talk with her in just a second.
For his part, the president has remained clear. No matter what the congressional wrangling, the health care law is here to stay. Here he is speaking on Friday.
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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Those marketplaces will be open for business on Tuesday no matter what, even if there's a government shutdown. That's a done deal.
RATH: And that's our cover story for today: Obamacare is coming. Are you ready?
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RATH: And later, we'll hear from some Americans who are sidestepping insurance altogether. First to our own Tamara Keith. Hi, Tam.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hi.
RATH: So can you walk us through what the House bill does?
KEITH: First thing it does is keep the government funded through December 15th. Then it has a number - a couple of amendments. One would repeal the medical devices tax. This is part of the health care law that is actually unpopular with some Democrats as well as all Republicans. And it also has a one-year delay of Obamacare, of the entire law. This is a victory for the Tea Party wing of the House Republican caucus who really wanted to stand strong, keep fighting hard. And so that's why that is in there. And then there's also a separate bill that they're going to take up to keep paying the troops in the event of a government shutdown.
RATH: So that's what we have from the Republican House. How is this going to be received in the Democratically controlled Senate?
KEITH: Well, the reviews are in, and they don't like it. Senator Patty Murray, who's the head of the Budget Committee, released a statement. She says that by pandering to the Tea Party minority and trying to delay the benefits of health care reform for millions of seniors and families, House Republicans are now actively pushing for a completely unnecessary government shutdown. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, also out with a statement, says to be absolutely clear, the Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical devices tax. In short, this is going nowhere fast in the Senate.
RATH: So we're in this Groundhog Day cycle again. What's next then?
KEITH: I feel like this is a game of hot potato, and they're just - the House and Senate are throwing this thing back and forth, back and forth. And I think that the Senate is aiming to throw the potato back with as little time remaining as possible. So the House is going to most likely pass this package, send it over to the Senate.
A senior aide to Senate Democrats is telling me that there's really no change in their plans for timing. The Senate's not going to come back early. At least it's highly unlikely that they'll come back before Monday when they were scheduled to come back. And they're saying the only way for the House to avoid shutting the government down is to accept the Senate bill, which is a clean no riders, no policy changes, temporary extension of government funding through the middle of November.
RATH: NPR's congressional correspondent Tamara Keith. Thank you so much.
KEITH: You're welcome.
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