WASHINGTON — House Republicans’ Plan A for avoiding a federal government shutdown and erode parts of President Obama’s health care law failed in the Senate last week. Their Plan B failed Monday afternoon. Their Plan C failed Monday evening, and their Plan D failed Tuesday morning, after the government had formally shut its doors.
As GOP leadership looked to find a solution to the budgetary stand-off that has lead to the first government shutdown in 17 years, the Minnesota congressional delegation, like most members of Congress, was stuck in reaction mode. Since they’re not forging the bills themselves, they’re left to accept or reject what leadership puts before them.
Minnesota’s two establishment-oriented Republicans, Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen, backed each round of their leaders’ budget offers but demurred when asked whether they’d support anything else, including a clean continuing resolution that keeps the government open without addressing Obamacare.
Republican’s first plan was a one-year defund of Obamacare; the Senate rejected it on Friday. The House followed that up over the weekend by looking to delay implementation for one year, and repeal a tax on medical device manufacturers; the Senate voted that that down Monday afternoon.
By Monday evening, Republicans were asking for a one-year delay for the mandate that all Americans purchase health insurance, and the end of health insurance exchange subsidies for Congress and staffers, but the Senate dispatched with that within an hour of House passage. The GOP’s last-ditch effort came after midnight, when they asked members of the Senate to join a joint committee dedicated to forging a compromise. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid rejected that out of hand.
“The House has voted for a third time to keep the government running and protect Americans from the President’s fatally-flawed health care law, while the Senate and White House sit idly by refusing to compromise,” Kline said in a statement after the House passed Plan C but before the Senate sent it back.
Asked after a GOP meeting earlier Monday, Kline wouldn’t say whether he’d support what Democrats have said is their bare-minimum offer: A six-week extension of government spending with no Obamacare changes.
“I’m not going to speculate,” he said. “I’ll have to see what the Senate does.”
Paulsen, who said last week he could support a bill without Obamacare provisions, said in a Monday interview: “I’ll look at anything that comes before me for votes.” In a statement, he said: “Minnesotans expect their government to work and I remain committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to avert a shutdown.”
Conservatives ditch leadership
But House Speaker John Boehner’s increasingly diminishing budget offers seem to have lost the interest of the House’s most conservative members. A handful of them voted against the GOP’s Monday evening offer on the grounds it didn’t do enough to delay Obamacare.
Among them was Rep. Michele Bachmann, who told reporters: “We need to do something that will actually stop Obamacare from going into effect; this bill does not accomplish that.”
Bachmann said last week that she would oppose any bill that didn’t, at a minimum, delay the law for a year. She also voted against the conference committee plan.
Minnesota Democrats united
Most of Minnesota’s Democrats, meanwhile, joined nearly all their colleagues in opposing everything Republicans brought before them. (Rep. Collin Peterson and eight others supported the final conference committee proposal.) Democrats have refused to negotiate over Obamacare, so their votes were a foregone conclusion; it was all over except for the messaging.
Rep. Rick Nolan introduced a bill Monday evening cutting off legislators’ pay in the event of a shutdown, but it wasn’t going anywhere at that late hour. Of the Republican proposals, he took to the floor to say: “The simple truth is, and everyone in the world knows it: These amendments are intended for the sole purpose of shutting down the government. They’re not going anywhere. Everybody knows it.”
Keith Ellison sounded a similar alarm.
“It seems like everyday [Republicans] come up with some new demands, but they don’t ever arrive at funding the government,” he said. “There are moments when leadership is at issue, and this is one of them.”
After Republicans said they’d look to conference the budget bill, Tim Walz tweeted: “Let me get this straight: House Rs, after months refusing conference, now want one for 6 week CR. But not 1 for actual budget or farm bill?” Federal farm policy also expired at midnight.
Sen. Al Franken beat everyone to the punch, putting out a statement on the shutdown at 4:05 p.m. EDT, eight hours before the government formally closed.
“Republicans in the House continue to insist on holding our economic recovery hostage while they refight the same political battles over and over again,” he said. “The Senate passed a bill to keep the government running, and it’s time for the House to act responsibly and prevent a government shutdown.”
The House passed its conference committee bill at 1:10 a.m. Tuesday. By then the Senate had adjourned, and the federal government had shut down.
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry