The Republican-controlled House voted 228-201 late Monday to fund the government for two months while delaying the new federal health care law’s mandate that Americans be required to have insurance and canceling health care subsidies for members of Congress. The Democratic-led Senate voted 54-46 to reject the proposal, just as it did earlier in the day to a similar measure that would have postponed the entire health care law, the president’s signature domestic achievement.
As the clock ticked toward deadline, the House tried a new tactic, voting 228-199 in the early morning hours Tuesday to set up direct negotiations with the Senate by appointing a team of budget negotiators called “conferees” to work with Senate counterparts in the coming days. The Senate flatly rejected that proposal before leaving the Capitol.
“We like to resolve issues,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “But we will not go to conference with a gun to our head.”
About 800,000 of the more than 2 million federal employees will stay home after the plans are implemented sometime Tuesday. But more than a million active-duty military will remain on the job and be paid, according to legislation passed by both chambers and signed into law late Monday.
Joseph A. Beaudoin, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, said he was deeply disappointed in Congress’ decision “to allow politics to trump the best interests of the American people.”
“Today, in communities across our country, vital federal services are being interrupted and hundreds of thousands of federal employees have been told to stay home without pay because Congress has failed to carry out the most basic of its constitutionally mandated duties,” he said.
After the government reopens, lawmakers must decide whether employees — both those who worked and those who didn’t — should get paid following three years of frozen pay and increased workloads.