House, Senate Stay Faithful To Their Measures
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Parts of the U.S. government officially shut down at 12:01 this morning. A stopgap spending bill bounced between the House and the Senate several times yesterday, but Congress failed to reach an agreement on how to keep the government funded. This is the first partial government shutdown in 17 years. In a few minutes we'll hear from President Obama about the stalemate.
But let's first turn to Capitol Hill and NPR's David Welna.
DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: As he opened yesterday's Senate session, Majority Leader Harry Reid made short work of the bill the House had sent over on Sunday which kept the federal government funded but also delayed the Affordable Care Act for a year.
SENATOR HARRY REID: Mr. President, I move to table the House and members and ask for the yays and the nays on my motion.
WELNA: And with that, the entire Senate Democratic Caucus voted to strip the House bill of its ObamaCare riders and send it back to the House - in the parlance of Congress, clean.
Reid, who's a former amateur boxer, said that was the way to deal with what he called a banana Republican mindset.
REID: You know, with a bully, you cannot let them slap you around. Because they slap you around today, it's they slap you five or six times. Tomorrow it's seven or eight times. We are not going to be bullied.
WELNA: House Republicans then moved to slap on new amendments to the funding bill, all of them aimed at ObamaCare. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers insisted House Republicans were the ones being reasonable.
REPRESENTATIVE HAROLD ROGERS: The House is not the body that is refusing to act. We aren't the ones who are not willing to budge. We've now offered - this is the third or fourth compromise to the Senate. They simply ignore us, throw it in the trashcan.
WELNA: And while House Speaker John Boehner reported getting his first phone call in 10 days from President Obama, he did not seem at all pleased by what he heard.
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: I talked to the president earlier tonight. I'm not going to negotiate. I'm not going to negotiate. We're not going to do this. Well, I would say to the president: This is not about me and it's not about Republicans here in Congress. It's about fairness for the American people.
WELNA: House Democrats, for their part, said what it was really about was trying to sabotage the president's health care law on the eve of the rollout of its insurance exchanges across the nation. Chris Van Hollen is a Maryland Democrat.
REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Mr. Speaker, on the floor we just hear massive distortions. And what's shameful is that they want to use that now as a cover to shut down the United States government. They want to use that so that tomorrow millions of Americans can't sign up for access for affordable care.
WELNA: Other Democrats said what Republicans fear most is that people will actually end up liking ObamaCare. Meanwhile at the White House, Obama declared he would work with anyone to, say, get the nation's fiscal house in order.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: But 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 re-fight the results of an election.
WELNA: The House then passed its latest version of a stopgap funding bill, and the Senate in turn promptly gutted its new provisions and sent it back. This legislative ping-pong took a new turn just before midnight, when House Republicans moved to hold negotiations with the Senate to iron out their differences. No way, said Majority Leader Reid.
REID: We like to resolve issues. But we will not go to conference with a gun to our head.
WELNA: And Arizona Republican Senator John McCain said it was time for House Republicans to get real.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: We're not going to repeal ObamaCare. OK? That's it. We may do this for a day. We may do it for a week. We may do it for a month. It's going to end up the same way.
WELNA: As ping-pong gives way to the blame game.
David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.