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Reid to Boehner: "Stop trying to force a shutdown"
In the latest volley in Congress' negotiations over government funding, the Senate on Monday afternoon passed legislation to keep federal operations running for a few more months, once again leaving the prospect of a government shutdown in the hands of the Republican-led House.
By a party-line vote of 54 to 46, the Democratic led Senate passed the spending bill after stripping Republican language that would have repealed and delayed parts of Obamacare.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 House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, put the bill up for a vote, it would pass by a "large margin" with the support of Democrats and Republicans. So far, Republicans have passed two GOP-approved bills to keep the government running while dismantling the health care law. Democrats, however, 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.
After House Republicans huddled behind closed doors Monday to discuss their next move, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said that the House is now considering a third spending bill (referred to as a continuing resolution, or "CR") that would delay the Obamacare individual mandate -- just as the first two failed bills did. This third bill would also eliminate federal subsidies for congressional staff to buy health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges.
Reid said on Monday, the House is "spinning their wheels. 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. However, on the way to the Senate floor Monday, Reid was asked whether he is definitely opposed to that temporary solution, and he said yes.
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."