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House Republicans Close Ranks to Fund the Government, Defund Obamacare

September 20, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
House Republicans were able to pass a government spending bill that includes a provision to eliminate funding for the Affordable Care Act. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called it "a measure designed to shut down government." Judy Woodruff reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The outcome of today’s debate in Congress was certain. What happens next is anything but — at stake, keeping the government operating past month’s end and keeping President Obama’s signature domestic initiative on track.

WOMAN: On this vote, the yeas are 230, and the nays are 189.

JUDY WOODRUFF: With that, House Republicans closed ranks behind not just a vote to pay for the federal government, but yet another attempt to derail the president’s health care reform law.

This week, GOP leaders attached a provision to eliminate all funding for it, a move that was necessary to satisfy Tea Party conservatives, including John Culberson of Texas.

REP. JOHN CULBERSON, R-Tex.: We in the House, the constitutional conservative majority have kept our word to our constituents and to the nation to do our job, to fund the essential aspects of the government, and to ensure that we have done everything in our power to protect our constituents from the most unpopular piece of legislation that has ever passed in the history of Congress, Obamacare, permanently and totally defunding it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Democrats accused Republicans of pushing a dead-end strategy with only one possible ending.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi:

REP. NANCY PELOSI, D-Calif.: But what is brought to the floor today is without a doubt, without a doubt, a measure designed to shut down government. It could have no other intent. Its purpose is clear. And if they — our colleagues on the Republican side deny that, then they have no idea of the gravity of the situation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The two parties are also at odds over overall spending for the coming year. The bill locks in lower outlays across the board, forced by automatic cuts, the so-called sequester.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor:

REP. ERIC CANTOR, R-Va.: Americans are tired of seeing their government continue to spend more and more of their hard-earned tax dollars, and for the first time since the Korean War, it’ll be possible to have two consecutive years of discretionary spending cuts.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Fellow Virginian Jim Moran and other Democrats argued today the plan shortchanges critical needs.

REP. JIM MORAN, D-Va.: We need to do what this Congress was meant to do. We need to fund the government adequately to be a first-class society with a first-class economy that can compete and beat anyone. We can’t do that on the cheap.  


JUDY WOODRUFF: But with a GOP majority, passage was never in doubt, and Republicans cheered their leaders when it was done.

Speaker John Boehner declared the burden is now on the Senate to do what the country wants.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio:  So, our message to the Senate is real simple. The American people don’t want the government shut down, and they don’t want Obamacare.


JUDY WOODRUFF: But the Senate’s majority leader, Democrat Harry Reid, made it clear he disagrees, insisting in a statement that his chamber will not pass any measure that targets Obamacare. The Senate takes up the spending bill next week, while the House turns to another fiscal fight, raising the national debt ceiling.

The president weighed in on that issue during a visit today to an auto plant in Liberty, Missouri.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  If Congress doesn’t pass this debt ceiling in the next few weeks, the United States will default on its obligations. That’s never happened in American history. Basically, America becomes a deadbeat. 

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Treasury Department projects the borrowing limit could be reached by late October.