House Republicans are planning no new proposals on the first day of a shutdown to fully fund the government, but they will introduce three small bills that would continue funding for veteran benefits, national parks and museums, plus another measure that would allow the District of Columbia to continue operating using its own revenue.
Although the move wouldn't end the budget impasse, the measures would ease some of the pain while lawmakers continue to try to find a path out of the standoff, and House leaders were preparing for votes Tuesday evening.
Senate Democrats, however, rejected the new offer outright. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday afternoon insisted, as he has throughout the entire process, that the Senate would accept nothing short of a bill that funds all government operations.
"The government is shut down," Reid said on the Senate floor. "And if they think they're going to nit-pick us on this, it won't work."
Earlier Tuesday, the morning of the first federal government shutdown in 17 years, the political brinkmanship reached a stalemate when the Senate rejected a House request for a conference committee to take up a proposal to fund the government through Dec. 15 and delay a key part of the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.
The Democrat-controlled Senate voted to table the House bill passed overnight that proposed the committee. The House bill also included language that would prohibit congressional staff members from receiving subsidies for their health care plans and delay Obamacare’s individual mandate to buy health insurance for one year.
By transitioning to a conference committee, the House and Senate would each appoint members to work out a deal to fund the government and end the shutdown. But appointing a committee would take the talks from public view to closed-door negotiating rooms where lawmakers and staffers could hash out their differences in private.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor joined members of the chamber's appointed conference committee in a meeting room where they called on Senate lawmakers to join them for negotiations.
"We invite Senate Democrats to come and join us and resolve our differences," Cantor said.
Democrats continued to decline alternative offers until the House passes a full funding bill.
Meanwhile, Obama blasted Republicans on Tuesday in a Rose Garden statement for using a mandatory spending bill to dismantle the health care law, the president's landmark legislation.“They’ve shut down the government over an ideological crusade to deny affordable health insurance to millions of Americans,” Obama said. "This, more than anything else, seems to be what the Republican Party stands for these days."
This week's shutdown came after House Republicans refused to pass a bill to set federal spending levels unless the federal health care law was defunded or delayed. Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama repeatedly said they would not accept any spending bill that tampers with the law.
Last week, the House passed a bill to completely defund the health law. When the Senate rejected it, the House passed another version that would have abolished a tax on medical devices and delayed the law for a year. When the Senate rejected that, House Republicans passed another bill that would have delayed the individual mandate and revoked health insurance subsidies for congressional staffers. After the Senate said no to that, the clock ran out and the government shut down. That’s when the House asked for private negotiations — surprise, the Senate turned that down — and that’s where the parties stand now.
The back-and-forth between the parties will continue throughout the day, as House Republicans recalibrate their strategy and Senate lawmakers huddle for partisan meetings this afternoon.
Unless they can find a compromise, the government will remain shut down until further notice.
The Republican strategy of coupling anti-Obamacare legislation with the threat of a government shutdown is unpopular, according to a national Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday. American voters oppose the GOP's tactic by a ratio of 72 to 22 percent, according to the poll.
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