Senate will not accept any measure that contains provisions opposed by Democrats, says Reid

Lawmakers from both parties urged one another in a rare weekend House session to give ground in the fight over preventing a federal government shutdown, with the midnight Monday deadline fast approaching.

But there was no sign of yielding on Saturday in a down-to-the-wire struggle that the Republican Party’s conservative wing, supported by the limited government tea party movement, is using to try to derail President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

Mr. Obama, in his weekly radio and Internet address, accused House Republicans of being more concerned “with appeasing an extreme faction of their party than working to pass a budget”.

With pressure mounting on divided Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner scheduled a closed-door, lunchtime meeting of Republican lawmakers to see what, if any, legislation he could push through that might prevent large parts of the government from shuttering.

Failure to pass a short-term measure to keep the government running would mean the first partial closing in almost 20 years. A single, agreed-upon version must be approved by both Houses of Congress and signed by Mr. Obama by Tuesday.

Such paralysing fiscal fights have dominated Washington in recent years, underscoring the deep divide between the Republicans and the Obama administration and its Democratic allies. The two sides have managed in the past to come up with last-minute compromises to avoid a government closure.

With nothing much to work on, House members took to their chamber’s floor and mixed name-calling with cries for compromise.

“I’ve got a titanium backbone. Let ‘em blame, let ‘em talk, it’s fine,” said Republican Marsha Blackburn about Democratic claims that the Republicans would be at fault if the government must close.

She said Republicans wanted to keep the government open, but also wanted to reduce its size and “delay, defund, repeal and replace Obamacare,” as the health law is known.

Should the House approve legislation on the looming shutdown, a vote seemed most likely Sunday, leaving little time for the Senate to respond on Monday.

Senators on Friday sent a bill to the House that would keep the government’s doors open until Nov. 15. But Democrats removed a provision to defund the health carelaw, officially called the Affordable Care Act.

The Senate’s 54-44 vote was strictly along party lines in favoor of the bill, which would prevent a shutdown of nonessential government services.

That followed a 79-19 vote to cut off a marathon speech by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, a tea party favourite, who was seeking to delay a vote on the bill. The vote exposed a rift among Republicans eager to prevent a shutdown and those, like Mr. Cruz, who seem willing to risk one over the health overhaul.

All 52 Democrats, two independents and 25 of 44 Republicans voted in favour. That included Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and most of the Republican leadership. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned that the Senate would not accept any House measure that contains provisions opposed by Democrats.

“This is it. Time is gone,” he said in a warning to Republicans. “They should think very carefully about their next steps. Any bill that continues to play political games will force a government shutdown.”

More In: World | International | News