The sun is setting on Congress' final day to avert a government shutdown, and the next move belongs to House Speaker John Boehner, who just cleared a major test of his leadership.
The Senate made its move earlier this afternoon, when Democrats voted down a House budget extension bill that included a one-year delay of Obamacare and a permanent repeal of the law's medical device tax. Instead, Majority Leader Harry Reid stripped those provisions from the bill and sent legislation back to the House that would keep the government funded but leave Obamacare untouched—essentially the same proposal the Senate sent to the House late last week.
Now it's Boehner's turn, and the speaker is showing no signs of yielding. The House has proposed a new budget extension that would delay Obamacare's individual mandate for one year and strip health care subsidies for members of Congress, their staff, the president, vice-president, and political appointees. A vote is expected around 8 p.m. In a vote on the rule for the debate, a small rebellion by moderate and far-right Republicans wasn't enough to overcome the large majority of House Republicans in favor of the bill.
If approved by the House, the bill would represent House Republicans' third try at sending the Senate a continuing resolution that keeps the government funded but cuts into Obamacare, and it would likely be no more successful than the first two. "We are not going to do anything other than wait for them to pass our version of the [continuing resolution]," Reid said after the Senate vote Monday. "Otherwise, the government will shut down."
And so, after months of budget haggling, Congress is right back where it began: Democrats are still saying they won't pass any bill that cuts into Obamacare, and Republicans are still saying they won't pass any bill that doesn't.
But, with the budget hours from expiration, there are faints signs that a shutdown may be averted: A top Boehner ally hinted House Republicans have a secret, late-night plan to keep the government running, and throughout the day various parties have floated suggestions for very, very short-term continuing resolutions to give Congress a few more days to negotiate.
This post will be updated constantly throughout the day. Your in-the-moment updates are below.
Contributions from Tim Alberta, Matt Berman, Michael Catalini, Tom DeFrank, Catherine Hollander, Billy House, Elahe Izadi, Marina Koren, Patrick Reis and Dustin Volz
UPDATE: 7:58 p.m.--4 Hours Until Shutdown: Giving to Charity
Sen. Ted Cruz says he will donate his salary to charity if there's a government shutdown, according to a statement from his office.
Cruz is blaming Majority Leader Harry Reid for the shutdown, arguing that the Nevadan is not compromising over Obamacare.
"Elected leaders should not be treated better than the American people, which is precisely why hardworking Americans deserve the same Obamacare exception that President Obama has already granted Members of Congress," Cruz said in a statement.
Members of Congress continue to get paid during a shutdown even though other federal workers will be furloughed.
An email to Cruz's office asking which charity he will donate to has not been answered yet. We'll update when we hear back. (By Michael Catalini)
UPDATE: 7:17 p.m.--5 Hours Until Shutdown: House GOP Revolt Shut Down
A 225-204 vote in favor of the rule for debate on the House CR amendments cleared a possible revolt from moderates who want to prevent a shutdown and conservatives fully opposed to Obamacare. Only six Republicans joined Democrats in opposition.
Those opposing: Michele Bachmann, Steve King, Louie Gohmert, Paul Broun, Charlie Dent, and Pete King. It's a weird coalition, with the first four being far to the right of the last two. Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., thought earlier this afternoon he could have around 25 moderate Republicans joining him. It's not clear what happened to his plan, but we imagine there was some severe pressure from leadership. (By Matt Berman)
UPDATE: 7:12 p.m.--5 Hours Until Shutdown: Conservative Poll: Forcing Congress Into Health Exchanges Is Popular
As House Republicans consider inserting a provision to force members of Congress and their staffs to get health insurance through the new Obamacare exchanges set to open Tuesday, the conservative American Action Forum has released a poll of congressional swing districts showing the idea is a winner, at least politically.
In the survey, conducted last week, 56 percent of respondents said they would be in favor of including such a provision in a government funding bill. Still, the poll requires some caveats. The survey asked if voters would like to "remove Congress's exemption from Obamacare" -- a loaded phraseology.
Still, the survey shows the political potential for Republicans of hammering Congress, as Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has, on the issue of not receiving their health benefits through the new law and its potency in the current government funding fight.
The American Action Forum has posted the poll results here.(By Shane Goldmacher)
UPDATE: 6:54 p.m.--5 Hours Until Shutdown: Obama and Boehner Speak
For the first time in over a week, President Obama and Speaker Boehner have had a telephone conversation. That in-and-of-itself doesn't sound like much, but with the shutdown clocks ticking, it may wind up meaning a lot.
And, hey, Obama has had some serious recent success with phone calls. But, alas, per Fox News' Chad Pergram, the ten minute call yielded no breakthroughs. (By Matt Berman)
UPDATE: 6:46 p.m.--5 Hours Until Shutdown: The GOP Moderate Revolt
A collection of centrist House Republicans are threatening to torpedo Boehner's plan to send the Senate a third continuing resolution that attacks Obamacare, National Review reports. The group, led by New Yorkers Peter King and Michael Grimm, wants to avert a shutdown by passing the Senate's budget extension, and they oppose their fellow Republicans' strategy of using the threat of a government shutdown to attack the health care law.
"If Obamacare is as bad as we say it's going to be, then we should pick up a lot of seats in the next election and we should win the presidency in 2016," King said Monday. "This idea of going through the side door to take something you lost through the front door—to me, it's wrong."
For Boehner, a revolt from moderates would mean attack from all sides. His party's right flank—which has openly defied Boehner on several key votes since their 2010 ascension—says the most recent iteration of the Obamacare attack doesn't do enough to wound the law.
And if the party's centrists won't back it either, Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young may prove prophetic. Asked about the GOP's next move earlier Monday afternoon, Young said that, right now, Republicans "don't have the votes to do anything." (By Patrick Reis)
UPDATE: 6:43 p.m.--5 Hours Until Shutdown: Sen. Crapo on a Shutdown's Silver-Lining
With very few hours to go before midnight, Republican Sen. Mike Crapo called into KBLI radio station in his home state of Idaho. He recalled the government shutdowns of 1995 and 1996, and said a similar situation today may not necessarily be a bad thing—at least for the GOP platform. After the last shutdowns, "the Republicans and the president did finally have to come together because there was damage being done and we all felt that the kind of progress we were trying to achieve could be achieved in increments," Crapo said. Progress followed soon after, he said, in the form of a balanced-budget deal in 1997 that conservatives took credit for.
"The bottom line is, you gotta, I think, be realistic and recognize that shutting down the government—as much as it would be very helpful in some context to be able to trim the government—it's not something that can be sustained forever," Crapo said. (By Marina Koren)
UPDATE: 6:36 p.m.--5.5 Hours Until Shutdown: Ted Cruz Hits CNN
Sen. Ted Cruz accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of wanting to force a government shutdown and defended House Republicans as willing to compromise during an evening appearance on CNN.
"I think Harry Reid affirmatively wants a government shutdown," the Texas freshman told Wolf Blitzer. "The House has been working to try to negotiate a compromise, and the problem has been Harry Reid and the president."
Cruz said that House Republicans have shown an ability to compromise by trying at first to defund Obamacare and then trying to only delay its implementation for one year. He also criticized Obama for being "willing to negotiate with the Iranians but not Republicans" on the budget battles.
Blitzer asked Cruz what he wanted to get out of the budget crisis and pushed him to give a "real plan" for a way forward. Cruz at first relied on his usual talking points, but when pushed again said the House should pass a series of narrow continuing resolutions that specifically fund the critical services Obama warned would shut down beginning at midnight.
"Let's one at a time demonstrate a bipartisan cooperation that we saw today with the military. If the president is willing to roll up his sleeves and work we can deal with the consequences," Cruz said.
"Specific proposal coming in from Sen. Cruz," a seemingly surprised Blitzer responded before ending the interview. (By Dustin Volz)
UPDATE: 6:21--5.5 Hours Until Shutdown: House Bill Gets Rare RSC Endorsement
It appears House Republican leadership is pulling out the stops to make sure its third CR proposal passes, even enlisting the elders of the Republican Study Committee -- a caucus of 175 conservatives who often oppose leadership's efforts -- to issue a statement of support for the legislation.
In a rare collective endorsement, the RSC issued a statement Monday afternoon announcing that members of the group's influential steering committee "unanimously" support the short-term funding bill, which is heading to the House floor this evening for a highly-anticipated vote.
"This bill ensures that all Members of Congress and the White House will finally have to live by the same laws that have been passed, just like all Americans," RSC Chairman Steve Scalise said in a statement. "Either Obamacare is good enough that it should apply to all or it is so bad that it should apply to none. It is time for the sweetheart deals and backroom exemptions to end."
The RSC's public statement of support -- some would call it a whipping effort -- comes hours after Scalise told National Journal that he would vote for the bill. By announcing to RSC members that members of the group's well-respected steering committee "unanimously" support the legislation, Scalise is openly attempting to deliver the right flank of the conference for Boehner and his leadership team.
The RSC does not disclose the members of its steering committee, but several are known to National Journal, which recently published an extensive report on the group's history and current operation. Among the most prominent members of this RSC leadership group are three highly-respected former chairmen: Jim Jordan of Ohio, Tom Price of Georgia and Jeb Hensarling of Texas.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., a longtime RSC member and former vice presidential nominee, is also a known member of the RSC steering committee, and issued a statement of support for the plan earlier this afternoon.
Those five members -- Scalise, Jordan, Price, Hensarling and Ryan -- are perhaps the five most influential conservatives in Congress, and were called upon at the beginning of the 113th Congress to bridge the divide between Boehner and the Republican rank-and-file. With a government shutdown looming, and some conservatives openly questioning the GOP's latest funding measure, it's a sign of these desperate times that members of the Conservative Jedi Council are endeavoring once again to deliver Boehner the votes he needs from the right wing of his House GOP. (By Tim Alberta)
UPDATE 5:56--6 Hours Until Shutdown: Republicans: Americans Are on Our Side
On the floor and outside the Capitol, Republicans have spent the day citing the American people's disapproval of the Affordable Care Act as the reason for the near-deadline standoff in Congress. According to a CNN/ORC poll released Monday morning, 57 percent of Americans say they oppose the health law. However, nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said they weren't aware that online health insurance exchanges were set to open Tuesday, and half thought the law created a government-run insurance plan that would complete with private plans. (By Marina Koren)
UPDATE 5:53--6 Hours Until Shutdown: The Senate Republicans' Box
Like a tennis champion secure in the knowledge he can safely return his opponent's volley, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is waiting on the House to send the Senate another amendment to keep the government running.
When— if—the House does send the Senate its next iteration of a continuing resolution, Reid will move to table the measure, according to a Democratic Senate aide. It will be the third time Reid has punted back the CR to the House since Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, campaigned to pressure Democrats to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
This raises a question: In the Senate, home of the filibuster, why won't Senate Republicans rise up and block Reid? Aside from the potential of getting beaned with a hot political potato, there's a procedural reason.
Senate Republicans won't be able to block Reid from moving to table the bill, according to Senate Republican and Democratic aides, because of parliamentary courtesy extended to Reid by the rules that allow him "first recognition," according to Democratic and Republican Senate aides.
That explains why Reid moved to vote as soon as the Senate convened today, and it also explains why Senate Republicans have been largely reticent today about talking about their next move. Absent persuading their Democratic colleagues to break ranks, there's not a whole lot they can do. (By Michael Catalini)
UPDATE 5:45--6 Hours Until Shutdown: Powerful Conservative Groups Split on House GOP Proposal
Washington's two most influential conservative advocacy groups split today on the House Republican CR proposal, with the Club for Growth backing the plan and Heritage Action for America opposing it.
In a late afternoon email to lawmakers, Club for Growth VP of Government Affairs Andy Roth announced his organization would be key-voting in favor of the budget bill, informing lawmakers that the vote "will be included in the Club's 2013 Congressional Scorecard."
Neither Roth nor Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller offered an explanation of the group's support.
Meanwhile, Heritage Action released a statement around the same time announcing its opposition to the House measure -- quickly adding, however, that it would not key-vote against it.
"Much like the rest of Obamacare, the individual mandate and staffer exemption are bad policy, but the proposed changes would not keep the law from taking root," read a statement from Heritage Action. "For that reason, Heritage Action opposes the amendment, but will not key vote against it."
The decision by Club for Growth to key-vote in favor of the bill -- and Heritage Action's call not to issue a key-vote despite its opposition -- could ease the concerns of McCarthy and his vote-counting team. With plenty of House conservatives already uneasy about the proposal, a key-vote against it from one (or both) of these groups could have spelled doom for the last-minute legislation. (By Tim Alberta)
UPDATE: 5:30--6.5 Hours Until Shutdown: Key Republican Hints At Last-Second Deal
Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions is telling Democrats to "stay calm" and get ready for a late-night deal. More on that from NJ's Billy House here.
UPDATE: 5:20--6.5 Hours Until Shutdown: Obama on Obamacare: You Can't Shut It Down
President Obama took to the White House briefing room to outline what Americans can expect if a government shutdown takes place at midnight and to offer one last plea to House Republicans to not let party politics get in the way of one of their most fundamental responsibilities.
"Of all the responsibilities congress endows to Congress, two should be fairly simple: pass a budget and pay America's bills," Obama began shortly after 5 p.m. "But if the United States Congress does not fulfill its responsibility to pass a budget today, much of the United States government will be forced to shut down tomorrow."
Obama rattled off a list of what government programs will continue despite the shutdown -- social security, public safety and national security services, military and border patrol operations -- before listing what Americans can expect starting tomorrow.
"Office buildings would close. Paychecks would be delayed. Vital services that seniors and veterans, women and children, businesses and our economy depend on would be hamstrung. Business owners would see delays in raising capital, seeking infrastructure permits or rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy."
He castigated House Republicans for attempting to use a shutdown as a bargaining chip to derail Obamacare in order to "save face after making some impossible promises to the extreme right of their party" and reiterated that the law will move forward no matter what Congress does.
"The Affordable Care Act is moving forward. That funding is already in place. You can't shut it down," Obama declared. "One faction of one party of one house of congress in one branch of government doesn't get to shut down the government just to refight the results of an election."
After his admonitions, Obama closed by saying he believed Congress could still strike a deal before midnight.
"My hope and expectation is that in the 11th hour once again that Congress will choose to do the right thing and that the House of Representatives in particular will choose the right thing." (By Dustin Volz)
UPDATE: 4:40--7.5 Hours Until Shutdown: "We Kind of All Knew Where This Was Gonna End."
Don't call Senate Republicans frustrated--at least not those lawmakers who criticized Sen. Ted Cruz's plan to defund Obamacare through the continuing resolution.
"I'm not frustrated. I'm not frustrated in the least," said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., "I think this was—we kind of all knew where this was gonna end." Corker has been one of the loudest opponents of Cruz's quest to tear down the president's signature law.
Corker emerged from a closed-door meeting of Senate Republicans Monday afternoon, but declined to talk about the party's next move.
Senate Republicans will decide what to do next after the House acts again, Corker said. Asked whether they considered that Reid will reject anything other than the CR the Senate sent back to the House Monday morning, Corker did not answer.
"There's just not much to say," he said.
UPDATE: 4:37--7.5 Hours Until Shutdown: GOP Reps. Emerge Unhappy From Caucus Meeting
As he emerged from this afternoon's special House GOP meeting, the silence from Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon was deafening. Salmon, an oustpoken conservative who 36 hours earlier said his comrades went "bonkers" after Boehner presented the second House CR plan, appeared agitated and downtrodden after hearing the third and latest iteration.
Asked if he was unhappy with the plan, Salmon nodded his head yes, but refused to elaborate.
Salmon was the first conservative to express unease with the new GOP proposal -- which would delay Obamacare's individual mandate by one year while eliminating health care subsidies for a wide range of government employees -- but he was not the last.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who's played a leading role in the GOP's anti-Obamacare push, would not commit to voting for the bill when it hits the House floor this evening. Like many of his conservative colleagues, Meadows's body language was markedly different than it was Saturday afternoon, when conservatives loudly applauded Boehner's second CR proposal.
"I have two objectives: keep government open, and make sure the harmful effects of Obamacare don't hurt the folks I reprsent," Meadows said slowly, measuring his words. When asked if this third proposal meets those criteria, he hesitated, and said: "I've got to look at it."
When asked during a post-meeting press conference if his leadership team had the votes, Boehner nodded to Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and said, "I'll let McCarthy talk about votes." The speaker quickly added: "We're confident that this issue will pass."
The message from House leadership was that no one -- not even the president, themselves, or their staff members -- should enjoy a special exemption from the health care law. By pushing this bill, Majority Leader Eric Cantor said, Republicans are promoting "the fundamental principle ... of no special treatment for anyone."
But that principle could be contributing to some tension within the conference. According to some GOP lawmakers, there was debate in the room over whether the subsidy ban would hurt their staff members and drive talent away from Capitol Hill. "There was some angst that it could hurt our staff, and we don't want to hurt our staff," said Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana. "But you know, the law's the law."
Still, despite some displeasure from the right, top conservatives sounded cautiously optimistic that the bill will pass tonight -- several hours before the deadline for both chambers of Congress to reach a budget deal to avoid a government shutdown.
"We'll see on the floor. Everybody's going to have to vote," said Rep. Steve Scalise, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, while stepping onto an elevator following the meeting. "I'm a yes."
When another RSC member on the elevator, Michigan Rep. Tim Walberg, said that he, too, would be voting yes, Scalise slapped him on the back. (By Tim Alberta)
UPDATE: 4:01--8 Hours Until Shutdown: Obamacare Is Coming Tomorrow, No Matter What
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters on Monday that what happens in Congress won't affect Obamacare's rollout on Oct. 1. "Shutdown or no shutdown, we're ready to go," she said at a press briefing.
The online insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act are scheduled to open on Tuesday. As National Journal has previously reported, much of the spending for the health-reform law's implementation is mandatory, and wouldn't be affected even if lawmakers vote to defund it. (By Catherine Hollander)
UPDATE: 4:01--8 Hours Until Shutdown: Sen. Vitter: Democrats Are the Ones Pushing a Shutdown, And They're Doing It to Protect Themselves
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., spoke extensively at a press conference late afternoon about his proposed amendment, which would subject Congress to the same rules and regulations of the Affordable Care Act as the rest of Americans. A version of the amendment is in the latest House proposal. Vitter, surrounded by House Republicans and tax reform crusader Grover Norquist, touched briefly on the day's ongoing back-and-forth, speaking confidently about reaching "the finish line."
Who will cross first—and when—remains uncertain. Who to blame for a government shutdown, however, won't be a mystery, Vitter said. "If in a day or two, the Democrats are refusing to continue to fund the government only because of this provision to protect themselves, then I think they will be correctly perceived for what they're doing."
UPDATE: 3:47 p.m.--8 hours to a Shutdown: Senate Passes Bill to Pay Military
The Senate passed by unanimous consent a bill passed Sunday morning by the House to pay the military in the event of a government shutdown. (By Matt Berman)
UPDATE: 3:45 p.m.--8 hours to a Shutdown: The Latest House Proposal
It's live here from the House Rules Committee. The proposal delays the individal mandate for a year, and removes health care subsidies for members of Congres, their staff, the president, vice-president, and political appointees. The committee will meet at 4:15 on the resolution.
It might be important to keep a watch on a possible erosion of House Republican unity.
Rep. Richard Hanna, R-New York, a centrist House Republican from the Utica area, tells NJ he's already decided he'll vote "no," doing so after leaving a closed-door conference meeting with Boehner and colleagues. And Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska said he doesn't believe the leaders have enough votes to move on any plan.
If all 433 current House members show up to vote on this Monday night, the Republicans could only lose 16 of their votes and still pass it -- that is, if no Democrats jump party lines.
(By Matt Berman and Billy House)
UPDATE: 3:18 p.m.--9 Hours to a Shutdown: Democrats to Republicans: We Wouldn't Do This
Speaking on the floor after the House bill was tabled, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said the House Republicans aren't playing the game. There's more public support for stricter background checks for gun ownership than for repealing the Affordable Care Act, she said, but Democrats are not bringing the government to the brink of a shutdown over it. "What would everyone think on the other side of the aisle if we just decided, well, you know, we're going to shut down the government if you don't pass background checks on guns? It's what the American people want," she said. "That's not the way we legislate. That's not the constitutional framework our founding fathers put together. There would be outrage that we would try to shut down the government over background checks on guns."
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer proposed a similar hypothetical in a post-vote press conference. What if current House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had held up TARP, the billion-dollar bailout program, unless Bush-era tax cuts were repealed? The New York lawmaker said such a move would have been "irresponsible."
Pelosi, flanked by House Democrats, repeated the hypothetical at another press conference Monday. "So for [House Republicans] to be putting these 'gotcha' things on this bill, is really beneath the dignity of what we come here to do," she said. "Unless what you came here to do was shut down the government—and that is what their contention is." (By Marina Koren)
UPDATE: 3:15 p.m.--9 Hours to a Shutdown: Senate Likely to Pay Military
The Senate is likely to take up a measure to keep the military paid in the event of a shutdown, a top Democrat confirms.
"We're not gonna leave the military hanging out," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.., the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate.
When the Senate will vote is not clear. (By Michael Catalini)
UPDATE 3:11 p.m.--9 Hours to a Shutdown: The House GOP Doesn't Have Votes "to do Anything"
Emerging from House GOP conference, Rep. Don Young of Alaska says Republicans "Don't have the votes to do anything." (By Billy House)
UPDATE 3:08 p.m.--9 Hours to a Shutdown: The House Vote Could Come Late
A House leadership aide says a vote on a new GOP CR with a delay on the individual mandate won't occur until tonight. Rules committee will set floor procedures sometime after 6 p.m.
A House Republican aide says there are no plans for a clean CR of any time length--"at this time." (By Billy House)
UPDATE: 2:57 p.m.--9 Hours to a Shutdown: Harry Reid and the "Banana Republicans"
Reid all-but rejected a very short-term extension of the budget, one intended to avert a shutdown for a few days while negotiations continue over a longer bill. McConnell floated the idea earlier Monday, but Reid disparaged the plan.
"The Senate's bill is a short-term extension," Reid said in his press conference following a Senate vote to reject the anti-Obamacare portions of the House's latest offer. "This is a 6-week funding bill. If we can't pass this, we are truly entering the banana Republican mindset." It is unclear whether Reid intended to say "Banana Republican mindset" or the more conventional "Banana Republic mindset."
Instead, Reid called on Boehner to put the Senate's version of the continuing resolution—one which keeps the government funded at current levels and does not affect Obamacare—on the House floor for a vote, saying the votes of Democrats and centrist Republicans combined would be enough to pass it. "We are not going to do anything other than wait for them to pass our version of the CR," he said. "Otherwise, the government will shut down."
"Understand we are dealing with anarchists," Reid said just before he left the podium.(By Patrick Reis)
UPDATE: 2:42 p.m.--9.5 Hours to a Shutdown: Reactions From the House GOP Meeting
Tweets from NJ's Tim Alberta, who's on the scene:
Conservative Rep. Matt Salmon leaves GOP meeting looking irritated. Asked if he's unhappy, Salmon shakes head yes.
— Tim Alberta (@TimAlberta) September 30, 2013
This #GOP conference meeting now pushing 90 minutes, and not hearing much optimism from the few members who've exited
— Tim Alberta (@TimAlberta) September 30, 2013
UPDATE: 2:30 p.m.--9.5 Hours to a Shutdown: Dow Recovers
The stock market is staging a gradual recovery Monday afternoon after stocks plunged at the opening of Monday trading. As of 2:25 p.m., the Dow Jones Industrial Average is still 109 points down for the day, but that represents a steady climb from the morning low, when the Dow lost more than 1 percent—about 170 points—at the opening bell.
UPDATE: 2:26 p.m.-- 10 Hours to a Shutdown: More on a One-Week CR
On the way into their 2 p.m. special conference meeting, House Republicans were staying mostly silent about the "rumors" of McConnell pushing a one-week clean CR to avoid a government shutdown.
In fact, many GOP lawmakers said they had no knowledge of McConnell's proposal.
"That's the first I've heard of it," said Rep. Tim Walberg of Michigan.
Some members did seem genuinely in the dark, but it was apparent from the tone and body language of others that they were sticking to a coordinated message campaign.
"Haven't seen it," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas with a broad smile.
Moments later, in a separate conversation, Rep. Tom Price of Georgia echoed: "Haven't seen it."
When asked about the McConnell proposal, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio just smiled and shook his head.
The reason some members declined to speculate about the Senate minority leader's plan may have to do with conference politics. House leadership has been under pressure not to bring any clean CR to the House floor, regardless of how long it would fund the government for.
With the health insurance exchanges set to open Tuesday morning, a bill that funds Obamacare for one week, some conservatives say, is just as bad as one that funds it for a year.
"It's going to be very difficult to pass any clean CR," said Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan.
One conservative, however, seemed open to the idea. In the interest of avoiding a shutdown, Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona said, "If we have to buy a few more days, then so be it." (By Tim Alberta)
UPDATE: 2:19 p.m.-- 10 Hours to a Shutdown: Kick Out the Staff!
While the Senate voted to kill the House's Obamacare amendments, staffers were asked to leave a closed-door meeting of House Republicans in the basement of the Capitol. Time for frank talk on options. (By Billy House)
UPDATE 2:15 p.m. -- 10 Hours to a Shutdown: The Senate Votes to Kill the House's Obamacare Amendments
The Senate convened at 2:00, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid immediately put forward a motion to table the House CR amendments that would delay Obamacare and repeal the medical devise tax. The vote came along party lines, with Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., going with his party on tabling the amendments. Manchin had previously signaled some support for an Obamacare delay, which had turned him into a Republican talking point. (By Matt Berman)
UPDATE 1:55 p.m.--10 Hours to a Shutdown: Carney Rejects Medical Tax Repeal
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney Monday said President Obama would reject a continuing resolution that repeals the medical device tax, a revenue raising portion of the Affordable Care Act.
"None-of-this is acceptable," Carney said during his daily press conference. "This is just blatant extortion."
Unlike other GOP proposals, such as a repeal or delay of all or part of Obamacare, repealing the medical device tax has some support among Democrats. But Democrats thus far have shown very little willingness to include any changes to Obamacare as part of the budget extension.
Carney said responsibility for avoiding a shutdown rests with House Speaker John Boehner, saying he should pass the Senate's "clean" continuing resolution. Doing otherwise, Carney said anything else would mean the speaker was giving into a "small, very extreme" faction of his House caucus.
"The Democrats are asking for nothing, no concessions, no ideological riders, no special pet projects, no political gotcha items" to extend government funding and raise the debt ceiling, Carney said. "Republicans on the other hand are attaching all sorts of agenda items... some of which are wholly unrelated to the budget." (By Patrick Reis)
UPDATE 1:54 p.m.--10 Hours to a Shutdown: Mitch McConnell to the Rescue?
Possibly reprising his role as last-minute savior, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is suggesting to lawmakers a one-week continuing resolution without policy riders relating to Obamacare as a way to avoid a shutdown, a Senate GOP leadership aide confirms to National Journal.
"The Conference is looking at options."
"Despite the Democrats' refusal to work with the House to solve the problem, Republicans are working to protect the troops, prevent a shutdown and find solutions to the difficulties caused by Senate Democrats' delays," McConnell spokesman Michael Brumas said in a statement.
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shot done the idea outright. Exiting the meeting of Democrats and asked if he was dead set against a one-week CR Reid said, "Yes."
Senate Democrats instead have said they favor a 6-week CR that strips out the House language delaying Obamacare and repealing the medical device tax.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said before the news of McConnell's offer that the Senate would vote this afternoon to send a clean CR back to the House.
This is not McConnell's first stab at hauling Congress back from the brink. During the fiscal cliff negotiations, it was McConnell and Vice President Joe Biden who authored a compromise to avoid fiscal crisis. (By Michael Catalini)
UPDATE 1:35 p.m.--10.5 Hours Until Shutdown: Sign of House GOP Fracturing?
Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., a co-chair of the centrist "Tuesday Group" caucus in the House, tells NJ on Monday that he will argue in the closed-door House conference expected later in the day that it is time to accept a C.R. that will keep government funded without language to delay Obamacare, and avoid a shutdown.
Even if hard-liners in the conference don't think so, Dent said he believes Speaker John Boehner wants to, and that he should put such a CR on the floor. Dent says he believes Democrats and enough Republicans will pass it.
He noted Boehner has already shown several times this session he is willing to buck the supposed unofficial practice of not putting legislation onto the floor not supported by the "majority of the majority." He correctly ticks off such things as a hurricane relief bill, and the Violence Against Women Act -- not to mention the New Year's vote on the fiscal cliff bill.
Dent, echoing his positioning reported Friday in National Journal Daily, said he believes the GOP will be blamed for the shutdown, and that Republicans' fiscal and debt ceiling strategies can still be waged. He said no one wants to repeal the medical device tax more than he does. But he said attaching that, or any other strings to a CR at this time, is just not going to get passed the Senate. (By Billy House)
UPDATE: 1:10 p.m.—11 Hours Until Shutdown: Don't Expect a Clean House CR
With House Republicans set to hold a special conference meeting at 2 p.m., speculation is swirling about the possibility of House leadership presenting the option of sending back to the Senate a "clean" short-term CR that keeps the government running and buys Republicans more time to plot against Obamacare.
But according to multiple senior GOP aides, there will be no discussion today of a clean CR. With the Senate poised to strip out the anti-Obamacare language from the House CR this afternoon and speedily send it back to the lower chamber, House leadership is still working with leading conservatives to decide how to respond, sources tell National Journal.
There are several provisions Republicans are considering attaching to their third CR, which would be promptly returned to the Senate. These options, which will be discussed at this afternoon's conference meeting, include: a one-year delay of Obamacare's individual mandate (not the entire law); a ban on health care subsidies for members of Congress and their staffs (either in the language written by Sen. David Vitter, or some House conservatives); and a repeal of the medical device tax, as written by Rep. Erik Paulsen of Minnesota.
It's unclear, an hour before the meeting, which of these options is considered the strongest Republican rebuttal to the Senate's clean CR. But the one-year delay of Obamacare's individual mandate has generated, by far, the most buzz on Capitol Hill today. (House Republicans, eager to continue their "compromise" narrative, could point to the 22 House Democrats who voted for this delay back in July.)
Stay tuned for the latest developments from the 2 p.m. conference meeting. (By Tim Alberta)
UPDATE: 12:50 p.m.—11 Hours Until Shutdown: The Fundraising Goes On
Midnight on Monday brings two deadlines; one is for funding the government, and the other is the Federal Election Commission quarterly fundraising deadline.
A barrage of fundraising pitches came from Democrats as it became clear that Congress was barreling toward a shutdown. An email from Vice President Biden asked for $3 contributions to the Democratic Party. Another from President Obama directed donations to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's 2014 efforts.
Republicans and conservatives have also been trying to capitalize off of the current congressional showdown. The Republican National Committee sent out its own fundraising email pitch from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus entitled "I Stand With Ted," off of the talk-a-thon of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
The Senate Conservatives Fund has been playing ads featuring Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, urging people to sign a petition to defund Obamacare, and a website dedicated to the effort solicits donations.
And despite the possible shutdown, at least seven members of Congress have scheduled fundraisers this week, according to the Sunlight Foundation. (By Elahe Izadi)
UPDATE: 12:12 p.m. — 12 Hours Until Shutdown: The House Democrats' Plans
After the Senate votes, House Democrats will caucus behind closed doors around 2:30 p.m. At 3:00, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders are expected to hold a press conference. (By Billy House)
UPDATE: 12:00 p.m. — 12 Hours Until Shutdown: The Senate Democrats' Strategy
At a press conference just before noon, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., outlined what the Senate Democrats will do this afternoon. "We're going to handle this message from the House the same way we handled the first bill," she said. This means that Senate Democrats, after a caucus meeting, will strip the Obamacare delay and medical device tax repeal from the CR and send a clean resolution back to the House.
The frustration isn't just about the full delay. Boxer said that a medical device tax "has nothing to do with this particular situation that we're in now." Even if some Democrats are open for debating on repealing that tax—which would cost $29 billion in revenue over a decade—the party at this point is standing firm on refusing to negotiate on any aspect of Obamacare as part of a budget negotiation.
So what happens from there, if the House just sends another CR to the Senate with Obamacare amendments? "I'm not at liberty to say what Senator Reid will do if, what, when, and how," Boxer said.
We'll see how that holds after the caucus meeting, which is expected to happen at 1:!5 p.m. The Senate is expected to vote just after 2. (By Matt Berman)
UPDATE: 11:00 a.m. — 13 Hours Until Shutdown: An Angry Breakfast With Chris Van Hollen
The remaining shred of good will between Republican and Democratic combatants in the House all but evaporated Monday as a key Democratic legislator accused Speaker John Boehner of abdicating his authority to freshman Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), ringleader-in-chief of the government shutdown war.
"Sen. Cruz is essentially running the show in the House," Rep. Chris Van Hollen told a reporters' breakfast. "If Speaker Boehner doesn't want to exert leadership he should go ahead and turn the gavel over to Speaker (sic) Cruz."
The ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, Van Hollen repeated that "Sen. Cruz is dictating policy in the House of Representatives today." With his leadership squarely on the line, Boehner has two choices, he added: "Either he should step aside for Sen. Cruz or he should exert some leadership."
House Democrats and White House officials, who believe Boehner is the weakest speaker in decades for not standing up to rebellious tea-party zealots in his GOP caucus, privately say Boehner would like to find a middle ground to keep the government from shutting down at midnight because he understands Republicans will be blamed by most Americans. But they claim Boehner cannot risk alienating the extremist wing of his caucus lest he be tossed out as House speaker. (By Tom DeFrank)