Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
March 29, 2015

Senate Rejection of House’s Obamacare Delay Unlikely to Come Sunday (Updated)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks with Sen. Charles Schumer as they leave the Senate Democrats' press conference following the votes on the continuing resolution to fund the government on Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid released a Saturday afternoon statement reiterating his position on the CR. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 4:29 p.m. | The Senate is “highly unlikely” to return Sunday to take up an amended House continuing resolution, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide. But whether the chamber comes back on Sunday or Monday, its message will be the same.

The proposal to delay implementation of the 2010 health care overhaul is a non-starter with Senate Democrats, as Majority Leader Harry Reid reiterated in a statement Saturday afternoon.

“Today’s vote by House Republicans is pointless. As I have said repeatedly, the Senate will reject any Republican attempt to force changes to the Affordable Care Act through a mandatory government funding bill or the debt ceiling. Furthermore, President Obama has stated that he would veto such measures if they ever reached his desk.

“To be absolutely clear, the Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical device tax. After weeks of futile political games from Republicans, we are still at square one: Republicans must decide whether to pass the Senate’s clean CR, or force a Republican government shutdown.

“Senate Democrats have shown that we are willing to debate and vote on a wide range of issues, including efforts to improve the Affordable Care Act. We continue to be willing to debate these issues in a calm and rational atmosphere. But the American people will not be extorted by Tea Party anarchists.”

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Tom Harkin of Iowa put it more bluntly on Friday: “That’s bullshit.”

Since the House has announced plans to move forward with attaching Obamacare delay language to the Senate’s stopgap spending measure, it appears that time has already run out to avert a government shutdown — absent unanimous consent in the Senate, of course

Regardless of when the Senate returns, it would be difficult for the chamber to do anything other than reject the House changes before midnight on Monday. Actually amending the House measure would require at least one, possibly more, debatable motions — a situation that would allow a filibuster. Any attempt to block could take three days or more to overcome.

The people most likely to attempt to delay action — GOP Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah — had urged their House counterparts to return the “clean” Senate bill with more Obamacare language. But an email to Cruz’s office Saturday asking whether the tea party darling might try to object to any further attempts by Reid to change the House language was not immediately returned.

Reid could try to seek unanimous consent to disagree with the House amendments and dare Republicans to object hours from a shutdown, or the Nevada Democrat could move to table a motion to concur with the amendments. That would only require Democratic votes, and Cruz and Lee could not prevent those non-debatable motions from being brought up.

There’s also no technical reason the Senate has to hold any formal votes on the measure at all.

The Senate’s rules do not require the question of delaying Obamacare for a year to be considered separately from the medical device tax repeal amendment that the House Republicans also plans to send across the Capitol. The Congressional Research Service has a detailed explanation of the often confusing process through which the House and Senate exchange amendments without using a conference committee.

According to that CRS report: “The Senate … does not necessarily need to agree to a separate motion to dispose of each amendment. Instead, the Senate can agree to one motion to dispose of several House amendments, as long as the Senate is agreeing to dispose of them in all the same way.”

Back in 2010, when Democrats controlled the House, the Senate decided against invoking cloture on a war supplemental that included extra domestic spending. As part of a unanimous consent agreement, rejecting that motion to limit debate caused the Senate to automatically transmit a message back to the House that the Senate disagreed with the House amendment. The House ultimately accepted the Senate’s roughly $60 billion package.

“House Republicans are now actively pushing for a completely unnecessary government shutdown. Democrats and Republicans acted responsibly in the Senate to pass a clean short-term spending bill to prevent a government shutdown,” Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray of Washington said in a statement Saturday. “I urge Republicans in the House to stop playing political games and pass the Senate’s short-term shutdown-prevention bill so the families and communities we represent don’t end up paying the price.”

She is also a member of the Democratic leadership team.

That’s not to say unanimous consent is impossible. In April 2011, a last-second deal on a spending package allowed Reid to get a short-term continuing resolution through after 11 p.m. one night.

The House didn’t actually clear that measure until after the midnight hour, when the shutdown was set to begin, but the Office of Management and Budget told departments and agencies to continue as normal, knowing the deal would be completed. The difference may be that in that case, a broader spending deal was at hand.

And while a Sunday session is unlikely, Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., told reporters Friday that senators were advised not to travel too far from Washington, D.C., this weekend, given the possibility that the schedule could change. Officially, the Senate’s set to return for regularly-scheduled morning business at 2 p.m. on Monday.

The Senate passed a continuing resolution Friday that would run through Nov. 15, rejecting the House’s earlier move to defund Obamacare.

  • Chas Holman

    I’ve seen what these GOP clowns have done to the WORLD stock market the last few weeks.. Give them another year and the uncertainty will have us all dead and buried……

    • Emfourty Gasmask

      We’re going to be dead and buried no matter what, doesn’t matter who is in charge. We’re looking at two sides of the same coin, and neither has the answer.

    • califconserv

      GOP has done? So you’ve looked at the ACA and the costs incurred by low middle income families and you agree with Harry Reid, who apparently believes, it is the very best legislation they can produce, though they’ve determined it’s not good enough for big business and the connected, that it can not be delayed and if necessary it should hold up a debt agreement because it is important legislation for America?
      Do you agree with that?

  • califconserv

    Harry Reid has never once said that he stands by the ACA because it is the best possible bill our government could produce for the American people. He just says It must stay because it is the law and there is nothing they will do about it.

    • Jane Snape

      Funny how conservatives like you hate on the ACA when the Heritage Foundation created it in the 1990s and Mitt Romney implemented it in Massachusetts.

      • Kyle

        Jane, you don’t understand what Heritage proposed versus what the ACA is implementing at the National level… simply level Democratic talking points wrapped in racists accusations….stop! A key difference is the employer mandate: the original Heritage plan proposed, and what Romney presented to the Massachusetts legislature, provided subsidies to low income workers which empower the consumer and expand individual insurance markets thus reducing costs. This is a key, private market solution vice a centralized, government run system.

      • califconserv

        Just last week the democrats were saying ACA couldn’t be judged because it hasn’t been rolled out. Now we are just getting to see the true costs to the people they pledged to help. I have few doubts that you saw conservative and your mind was made up. Have you actually looked at what low income people are to be charged to have access to health care? Do you care how much they are charged? Or is it just the rhetoric from the administration and the democrats you are found of? Will you have to use the exchange or are you one is to benefit from the exchange by having your premium lowered.
        Bronze plan, coveredcalifornia, has a deductible of five thousand dollars for medical and drugs. How is that meant to help the poor?Your expecting a low income family expected to go to the sock drawer and pull out five thousand dollars so their twelve thousand dollar procedure is covered?
        Throughout this past year conservatives were said to be heartless for pricing out the poor and this is to hold up a budget agreement for? This is a sick, cynical joke.

      • txagsw

        What the hell does bad 2000 page bills have to do with race of anyone!!! Racist!!!!

        • AnybodRecognizeMyCountryLately

          That’s all they got, ever had

      • AnybodRecognizeMyCountryLately

        Anything you don’t see in black and white?

        Year 2945, Jessie Jackson L XXVII, our ancestors not to long ago……

    • txagsw

      He never said it was a good bill but it was the best was to get us to single payer system( socialized medicine)!

  • Maus

    If Reid and the Democrats want to shut up the ObamaCare critics and take the wind out of their sails, they need to do only two things. First, adopt the ACA for all government employees, with Congress leading the way. Second, remove all exemptions and end the entire exemption process. Simple.

    So, Senator Reid, you smarmy old fool… why won’t you do that?

    [crickets chirping]

  • CAPT_Mike2

    please, you cannot possibly reasonably propose that this Senate could reach unanimous consent on anything other than ‘baseball, motherhood and apple pie,’ and I’m guessing a couple Dems would vote against motherhood.

    • txagsw

      Most of the women dem wouldn’t agree on motherhood either!!

  • mer

    apparently the Senate is out golfing with the Chief Executive –but they are soooooooooo worried about the shutdown.

  • bscook111

    Given the current state of confusion and unpopularity of this law, a year delay is the most sensible thing to do. If the senate balks or Obama vetoes, the responsibility for consequences will lie with dems and they know it in their hearts. We’ll soon see.

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