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Pressure Mounting to Avert Shutdown, Lawmakers Stand Their Ground

September 30, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
With just hours left before a government shutdown, House Republicans passed another stopgap funding bill that included provisions to scale back the Affordable Care Act, despite the Senate and the president's refusal to support such a plan. Gwen Ifill reports on the day's back and forth leading up to the budget deadline.
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GWEN IFILL: Our lead story tonight: The federal government is now just a few hours away from a potential shutdown. President Obama and House Speaker Boehner spoke tonight but there was no apparent breakthough. Instead House Republicans again passed a stop gap funding bill with provisions aimed at scaling back the health care law. That followed a long day of back and forth with the Senate that threatened to continue until the very last minute.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: The House will be in order.

GWEN IFILL: In fact, disorder mostly prevailed as the hours ticked down. Speaker John Boehner defended the House, which was in session this weekend, and blasted Senate Democrats.

JOHN BOEHNER: The House has done its work. We passed a bill on Saturday night, sent it to the United States Senate that would delay Obamacare for one year and would eliminate permanently the medical device tax that is costing us tens of thousands of jobs that are being shipped overseas. The Senate decided not to work yesterday. Well, my goodness. If there is such an emergency, where are they?

MAN: The ayes are 54. The nays are 46.

GWEN IFILL: The Senate returned this afternoon and quickly rejected the House plan to tie the budget to pulling back the health care law. The chamber’s Democratic majority leader, Harry Reid, said it’s time to stop playing political games.

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SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: So our negotiation is over with, and I have said that for two weeks. They should pass a C.R. They are closing down the government. I don’t know what in the world is wrong with them, why they’re fixated on this Obamacare. It is the law. We are not going to do anything other than wait for them to pass our C.R., because, otherwise, the government is going to shut down.

GWEN IFILL: Without some kind of compromise, an at least partial shutdown will begin once the clock strikes midnight. Among its most recent effect, 800,000 federal employees would be forced to stay home without pay. National parks across the country and popular tourist sites in the nation’s capital would be shuttered and some first-time home buyers could face delays in the processing of government-backed mortgages.

Services deemed essential would continue uninterrupted, including military law enforcement and intelligence activities and Border Patrol and air traffic control operations. In addition, Social Security beneficiaries would still receive checks.

With the ball back in the House’s court, leaders of both parties huddled with their members this afternoon. Then top Republicans emerged with a new proposal to delay the individual mandate to buy health insurance for one year and eliminate exemptions.

REP. ERIC CANTOR, R-Va.: This administration, this president has provided special treatment, carve-outs and exceptions under Obamacare for big being, for special interests, and, yes, it has provided a carve-out for members of Congress. Our position is very clear: no special treatment for anyone. We all live under the laws equally applied.

GWEN IFILL: Senate Democrats were expected to reject that bill as well.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: Good afternoon, everybody.

GWEN IFILL: From the White House, President Obama weighed in, saying he is not at all resigned to a government shutdown.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It doesn’t have to happen. All of this is entirely preventable, if the House chooses to do what the Senate has already done. And that’s the simple act of funding our government without making extraneous and controversial demands in the process.

GWEN IFILL: Later the president spoke with Congressional leaders by phone urging them to avoid a shutdown. 

JOHN BOEHNER: I talked to the president earlier tonight. I’m not going to negotiate. I’m not going to negotiate. We’re not going to do this.

GWEN IFILL:  After tonight’s vote, the bill bounces back to the Senate where Democrats insist they’ll reject it again.