HARI SREENIVASAN: We begin with the latest from Congress which now has little more than 48 hours to reach some sort of bargain, otherwise parts of the federal government could shut down as early as Tuesday morning.
Yesterday as you know, the Democrat-controlled Senate approved a spending plan that restored funding for Obamacare. Today the Republican-controlled House of Representatives met to consider its options.
For all the latest, we are joined by Todd Zwillich, the Washington correspondent from The Takeaway / Public Radio International.
Todd, what happened in the House today?
TODD ZWILLICH: What happened this morning, Hari, was House Republicans went into their closed conference, no Democrats allowed, to discuss their next move. The next move is just Republicans. They’re not going to get any Democratic votes for it.
Here is what they decided and what’s on the floor. A continuing resolution, a spending bill that would fund the government through December 15, that’s longer than the Senate democrats had, they had November 15.
And then two other things on this that are important. One, a one-year delay of Obamacare. That’s their answer to Harry Reid and Senate Democrats stripping that defund effort we’ve heard so much about.
The second amendment is a repeal of a medical device tax that helped to fund obama care. Now that sounds like a small issue. Why are Republicans putting that in there? Because Senate Democrats voted to repeal that tax, don’t like it, they’re trying to put political pressure on Democrats not to flip-flop on the little medical device tax. If they do flip-flop, Harry Reid has procedural problems. So they’re trying to put some political pressure on them.
They’re going do one more thing, which is pass a companion bill– a separate bill– to fund the Pentagon and troops in the event of shutdown so troops aren’t left without pay.
HARI SREENIVASAN: So we’ve heard Senator Harry Reid say that he’s not going to deal with any piece of legislation that does anything to Obamacare. What are you hearing from Senate staffers?
TODD ZWILLICH: Well he said that. And they’re saying the same thing. Procedurally it is pretty interesting though and we think we know where this is probably headed based on the arcane procedure that’s baked into this.
The way this thing is structured, Harry Reid will have a pretty easy time killing the two amendments that Ii just described, the Senate which is likely now to maybe come back Sunday we’re hearing instead of the originally scheduled Monday. Harry Reid would only need 51 votes to kill that Obamacare delay that House Republicans want to try again on. He wouldn’t need the magical 60 votes or deal with Ted Cruz or anything like that that we’ve been hearing about. On the medical device tax, same goes. He only needs 51 votes.
The only question is would he prevent enough senate democrats from flip flopping. They say they’re not voting for the repeal in this context, because they’re not giving this power to Republicans. What does this all mean? If Harry Reid holds the line on that little device tax, what it means is John Boehner is going to be left holding the bag on a clean spending bill, the thing they said they didn’t want, funding the government through December 15th or more likely November 15th.
And then he is going to have to decide. Does he kill it, does he go to Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer and understand he has to pass it with democratic votes in order to keep the government operating? Or does he try something else? Maybe a one-week punt, another one-week spending bill to keep the lights on while they negotiate more.
HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Todd Zwillich from Washington, thanks so much.
TODD ZWILLICH: Pleasure.