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Hours away from shutdown, House GOP not backing down
CBS NEWS With hours left to avert a government shutdown, House Republicans on Monday said that they're unwilling to let go of their insistence that a government spending bill include language to dismantle parts of the Affordable Care Act.
"What our members want is fairness for the American people," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters. He argued that since President Obama has delayed the health care law's employer mandate, the individual mandate should be delayed for a year as well.
Boehner said he will bring a bill to the floor Monday that delays the individual mandate, even though the Democratic-led Senate has already rejected such a proposal twice. The latest House bill will also eliminate federal subsidies for congressional staff to buy health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges.
Asked whether the House could vote any time today on a spending bill without the Obamacare amendments, Boehner said, "That's not going to happen."
Earlier in the day, the Senate passed a bill to fund the government through mid-November by a party-line vote of 54 to 46. The bill passed after it was stripped of the Republican-added language relating to Obamacare.
"I have a very simple message to John Boehner," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said after the vote. "Let the House vote. Stop trying to force a government shutdown. Let the House work its will -- all 435 members, not just the majority."
Reid said that if Boehner put the Senate bill up for a vote, it would pass by a "large margin" with the support of Democrats and Republicans. Democrats have said unequivocally they won't negotiate over government funding.
Congress now has less than 10 hours to reach an agreement before authorized government spending runs out and some federal operations shut down. The House is "spinning their wheels," Reid said. "We are not going to change Obamacare."
President Obama similarly reiterated Monday that government funding shouldn't be used as a vehicle to negotiate over Obamacare. He sounded optimistic, however, that Congress could reach a deal, remarking that he's "not at all resigned" to a government shutdown.
"Congress has two responsibilities: Pass a budget, pay the bills," Mr. Obama told reporters after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "I am not only open to but eager to have negotiations around a long-term budget... But the only way to do that is for everybody to sit down in good faith without threatening to harm women, and veterans and children with a government shutdown."
The president added that he expects to speak to congressional leaders "today, tomorrow and the next day, but there's a pretty straightforward solution to this if you set aside the short-term politics and you look at the long term here."
Behind closed doors Monday, Senate Republican leaders gauged whether there was any interest among Senate Republicans in passing a bill to extend federal funding for just one week. On the way to the Senate floor Monday, Reid said he is definitely opposed to that temporary solution.
House Democrats also said Monday it wasn't worth passing a one-week spending bill. However, they did say they were willing to go along with a six-week spending bill if Republicans would drop their Obamacare demands.
"Let's bring a clean [spending bill] to the floor, pass it with the few weeks that it gives us to come to the table to eliminate the sequester," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said.
Pelosi and other House Democrats pointed out that they are willing to pass the temporary spending bill at the low spending levels requested by Republicans (at a yearly rate of $986 billion), rather than the higher levels Democrats would prefer.
"We are asking them to take yes for an answer," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said. "This is not a negotiation -- we're taking their number, and we would hope that they could also take their number so we can keep the government open."
Meanwhile, Senate Chaplain Barry Black opened Monday's session with a prayer for members of Congress to find some common ground.
"Lord, lead them away from the unfortunate dialectic of us versus them as they strive to unite for the common good for this land we love," he prayed. "Give them the determination to make the right things happen... Bless them with the courage to stand for something."