The amendment passed on a largely party-line vote, 231 to 192, with two lawmakers from each party breaking ranks to vote with the other side.
“We will do everything we can to protect Americans against the harmful effects of Obamacare. This bill does that. We’re united in the House as Republicans,” Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) said Saturday night shortly after unveiling the plan to his rank and file. “Now it’s up to the Senate Democrats to answer.”
That response came quickly. Even before the House had a chance to vote on its proposal, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) blasted it as “pointless.” Democratic aides said the Senate would set aside the House amendments, probably first thing Monday, leaving GOP leaders with a stark choice: approve the simple funding bill the Senate has already passed or permit federal agencies to close.
“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,” Reid said in a written statement. “After weeks of futile political games from Republicans, we are still at square one.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney called the latest GOP strategy “reckless and irresponsible.”
“Any member of the Republican Party who votes for this bill is voting for a shutdown,” Carney said in a written statement.
As the House convened for the rare Saturday session, senior Republicans seemed to recognize the potential consequences of their actions. For now, Boehner’s decision to appease his right wing keeps an uneasy peace in his fractious caucus. But it bodes ill for his ability to work with Democrats to keep the government open, restore funding for federal agencies if a shutdown occurs or — in a few weeks — raise the federal debt limit to avoid a first-ever default on the national debt.
Leaders of both parties agree that a government shutdown would be bad for the economy and that a default would be potentially catastrophic. Complicating hopes for an easy resolution: Obama leaves Saturday for a week-long trip to Asia. Meanwhile, the maneuvering of House Republicans has caused considerable anxiety within their party.
“I think it’s going to be tough for them. They’re having such difficulty pulling things together,” said Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.), one of several GOP senators who consults frequently with House members. “I don’t know that I have a clear vision how we move through this. And I think the debt ceiling is maybe even more murky.”