Hours into a government shutdown, the first in 17 years, Congress is still at a stalemate. The Senate used a majority vote to reject a motion to go to conference with the House of Representatives on Tuesday to hash out the differences in a 2014 continuing resolution to keep the government funded.
The vote was 54-46.
“The government is closed ... because of the irrationality that is going on on the other side of the Capitol,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
A continuing resolution is a temporary funding measure that would appropriate money to fully reopen the federal government and keep it open until a more permanent solution is found. Disagreement between lawmakers in the two chambers over the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, led to a government shutdown after midnight.
Democrats are adamant about preventing House Republicans from using the continuing resolution and the upcoming debate on increasing the debt limit as a means to destroy the health care law. Republicans have tried more than 40 times to repeal or partially invalidate Obamacare, a law they detest. The state-level exchanges, a critical part of the law’s implementation, went into effect today, offering millions of uninsured Americans an option to get health insurance.
President Barack Obama and Democratic senators have said they are open to any proposals from lawmakers who want to help improve the law. However, they say they are refusing to play partisan games with Republicans at the expense of the economy and the full faith and credit of the U.S.
On Monday night, the House voted 228-201 to keep the government open but delay the individual mandate of Obamacare. Republicans were asking Democrats to give American families the same one-year reprieve in implementing the health care law that business owners got.
A party-line vote from the Senate thereafter ensured the House proposal was rejected, leaving the House once again with a "clean" continuing resolution on its hands.
“To Republicans, Obamacare is a punch line to rile up their base,” Reid said on Monday. “But for American families, Obamacare isn’t a punch line -- it’s a lifeline. For millions of Americans, the Affordable Care Act is the only option to access quality health insurance at an affordable price.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said every piece of legislation the House sent over was a compromise that would have kept the government open.
“They won't even agree to sit down and work out the differences,” McConnell said after a Tuesday vote to table the motion. “They won't even talk about it.”