Washington — After a day of waiting for the House of Representative to act on a bill that would have reopened the federal government and avoid a default on the government’s debt — the House did nothing.
The House’s failure makes a path toward finding a solution to the 15-day government shutdown and the looming debt ceiling crisis elusive.
Earlier today, House Republican leaders rejected an approach to the nation’s fiscal crisis under discussion in the Senate, instead considering their own bill.
“[House Speaker] John Boehner has single-handedly shut down bipartisan negotiations in the Senate,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. “We could have had a vote on the floor today to end the shutdown and deal with default, and John Boehner has chosen to try to preserve his speakership and continue this crisis.”
But later in the day, GOP leaders pulled their bill because they did not have the votes to squeeze it through the chamber. The House Republican proposal would have reopened the government and kept it open until Jan. 15 and lifted the debt ceiling until Feb. 7. But it would have also stripped members of Congress and the Obama administration – and most of their staff – from subsidies to buy insurance.
The Affordable Care Act requires members of Congress and their staff to purchase health insurance from state insurance exchanges instead of continuing their coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits program. But the Office of Personnel Management determined these congressional workers could continue to receive help from their employer – the federal government – to help pay for their policies.
Support for the GOP plan collapsed among Republican lawmakers after the Heritage Foundation, the powerful Washington think tank, said it would penalize members who voted for the plan in its “legislative scorecard.”
”Unfortunately, the proposed deal will do nothing to stop Obamacare’s massive new entitlements from taking root — radically changing the nature of American health care,” the Heritage statement said.
Shortly after the House scrapped its bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., issued a joint statement saying they would go back to trying to finish a deal in the Senate.
“Senator Reid and Senator McConnell have re-engaged in negotiations and are optimistic that an agreement is within reach,” said Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson.
But a bipartisan agreement in the Senate will still have to win House approval. That could be difficult unless Boehner gives up trying to pass a bill with a majority of Republican votes and reaches out to Democrats for help.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said that unless the federal government raises its debt ceiling by Thursday, the government will be unable to pay its bills.
Fitch Ratings Tuesday placed the triple A credit rating of the U.S. government on “negative watch.”