In the first day of the first government shutdown in 17 years, Republicans in the House of Representatives have moved onto "Plan E." They plan to pass smaller, targeted bills that would fund the most visibly affected government services in the shutdown.
The House will consider three separate bills on Tuesday. Each would fund and reopen different portions of the federal government, including national parks, veterans' programs, and tourist attractions in Washington, D.C.
The White House dismissed the idea earlier Tuesday, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called it "wacky."
Republicans are "trying to cherry-pick the few parts of government they like," Reid said on the Senate floor shortly before 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
The closure of national parks, veterans' programs, and landmarks in D.C. are some of the most visible effects of a federal government shutdown. On Tuesday, for example, a massive group of World War II veterans stormed past a barricade to enter the shuttered World War II Memorial.
Republicans believe that it will put the Senate in a politically tricky spot — they'll be able to say Democrats, for example, are holding back funding for veterans' programs to protect Obamacare. The irony is that the government is usually funded in a piecemeal approach through appropriation bills, something the House didn't do earlier this year because Republicans could not reach intraparty agreement on the bills' content.
The White House said late Tuesday afternoon that President Obama would veto the bills if they came to his desk.
"The president and the Senate have been clear that they won't accept this kind of game-playing, and if these bills were to come to the president's desk he would veto them," White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said in a statement.
In response to that veto threat, Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, called Obama's position "unsustainably hypocritical."
"How does the White House justify signing the troop funding bill, but vetoing similar measures for veterans, National Parks, and District of Columbia?" Steel said in a statement. "The President can't continue to complain about the impact of the government shutdown on veterans, visitors at National Parks, and DC while vetoing bills to help them. The White House position is unsustainably hypocritical."
As always, a brief recap of the "ping-pong" between the House and Senate over the past 11 days on the continuing resolution:
- Sept. 20: The House passed a continuing resolution that funds the government through Dec. 15 — but strips funding for Obamacare.
- Friday: The Senate passed a so-called “clean” continuing resolution that would have kept the government funded through Nov. 15. It stripped out the language defunding Obamacare.
- Saturday: The House decided against passing the Senate's CR, instead attaching to it two “poison pill” amendments that fundamentally altered the Affordable Care Act. The first two House amendments delayed Obamacare by one year and repealed a tax on medical devices.
- Monday afternoon: The Senate immediately tabled the two amendments, sending the CR back to the House.
- Monday night: The House decided again to not pass a “clean” CR, adding two more Obamacare-related amendments. These amendments delayed just the individual mandate by one year, and added language that would bar lawmakers, Congressional staffers, and administration staffers from receiving federal subsidies for health insurance under Obamacare.
- Less than an hour later, the Senate again rejected the House's amendments, putting the ball back in the House's court.
- The House of Representatives passed a motion to form a conference committee with the Senate to iron out differences. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats objected to this, saying Republicans are trying to negotiate with a "gun to our heads."
- The Senate tabled the conference motion earlier Tuesday.
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