Addressing reporters in the Capitol, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated it's not likely that House Republicans will accept a "clean" continuing resolution to fund the government past Sept. 30 from the Senate. By that he meant they would not accept legislation that doesn't include language to defund the Affordable Care Act. Senate Democratic leaders say that's what the Senate will send him.
"I don't see that happening," Boehner said, referring to the GOP caucus' willingness to pass a bill without the defunding language.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 100-0 to move ahead with debate on a bill the House passed last week that includes ACA defunding language, despite a 21-hour filibuster from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the Tea Party stalwart who didn't want the bill to come to the floor. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a news conference Thursday that the Senate will move quickly. Joining Reid, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said the Senate's short-term spending bill would fund the government through Nov. 15 and would eliminate language to defund the ACA.
"Any attachment that either defunds or delays the Affordable Care Act will be vetoed by the president," said Mikulski, who serves as chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "You can huff, you can puff for 21 hours, but you cannot blow the Affordable Care Act away."
After the Senate acts, the House will have little time to consider or amend the Senate measure before the end of the fiscal year ends at the end of next Monday.
There has been speculation that the House could add other ACA-related measures to the Senate bill, such as a one-year delay to the individual mandate or a repeal of the law's 2.3% tax on medical device manufacturers. That tax raises about $30 billion over 10 years to help pay for the law's provisions, including insurance premium subsidies for low and moderate-income Americans. The House voted last year to repeal the medical device tax, and the Senate approved an amendment to repeal the tax in the upper chamber's budget resolution this year.
Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called it a "fluid time" and said House members don't know what the Senate will send back to the House. But he said many House members would like to see the device tax eliminated because, he added, it would result in shifting jobs overseas and hampering innovation at home.
Two senators who support repeal of the tax, Sen. Amy Kobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Wednesday they oppose doing so as part of the continuing resolution.
Standing before a clock that showed the days, hours, minutes and seconds before a government shutdown, Reid made it clear that the Senate wants a clean spending bill. But he also highlighted the unpopularity of the ACA's medical device tax in both chambers.
"They can play around all they want," Reid said. "Some of the biggest supporters for doing away with the stupid tax—I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that," he added, getting laughs from the press corps, "doing away with that tax have told me they will not support that in the CR." The Nevada Democrat later said if House members want to examine the device tax, then both chambers should consider it in the context of separate legislation.
But other Democratic senators have warned that repealing the tax would significantly increase the federal budget deficit.
Meanwhile, House Republicans are setting their sights on legislation to raise the nation's borrowing authority that would serve as another vehicle to attack the ACA. On Wednesday, the Treasury department indicated the U.S. will hit its debt limit on Oct. 17. House leaders are expected this week to introduce the Spending Control and Economic Growth Act to increase the nation's debt ceiling that would also add a host of measures they say will curb spending and promote economic growth. Topping that list is a yearlong delay of the ACA.
"Our plan reduces energy costs for families and businesses. It calls for the reform of our tax code. It reforms Washington spending and it delays Obamcare for one year for all American families," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said about the debt-ceiling bill. "Now, President Obama has already delayed the law for big business, insurance companies and the politically connected. So this is only fair for us to say that American families should also have the benefit of delay that this president has given to those."
When asked if he would accept or consider any of those items from the House on legislation to raise the nation's debt ceiling, Reid answered unequivocally: "No."
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