Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, center, walks to a House Republican meeting on Capitol Hill on Sept. 30. (Jim Watson / AFP via Getty Images)
It took just a few minutes Monday for the Senate to reject a House-passed bill linking continued government funding to a delay in President Obama’s health care reform plan, leaving no clear path to avoid a partial shutdown of federal functions beginning at midnight.
“We are now in a moment of regrettable and avoidable uncertainty,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a defense-wide message released before the Senate voted.
Hagel said he believes a shutdown could be avoided but “necessary and prudent preparations” are being made for the worst.
“While military personnel around the world would continue to serve in a normal duty status, a large number of civilian employees and contractors would likely be temporarily furloughed,” he said, recommending that everyone talk with their supervisors to determine how they might be affected.
In two votes, the Senate rejected two restrictions the House passed early Sunday on short-term government funding and also reimposed a Nov. 15 cutoff date for the temporary funding. The measure, HJ Res 59, now returns to the House to face an uncertain fate. Both votes were 54-46 along party lines.
A move was afoot by Senate Republicans for a budgetary Band-Aid that would provide one week of government funding, providing more time to try to work out a compromise, but the White House and Senate Democrats rejected the idea. “What’s the point?” said one top Democrat aide, suggesting that if Congress couldn’t reach an agreement now they would not be any closer in a week.
The idea of a one-week extension might look more attractive later, as the government gets closer to the fiscal cliff that would lead on Tuesday to massive furloughs of federal workers and the government operating on a mostly emergency basis.
No Senate action was taken on HR 3210, the Pay Our Military Act that would guarantee no delay in pay for all service members during a government shutdown and for some defense civilian employees and contractors.
The House passed the bill on a 423-0 vote, but there is some resistance in the Senate to passing a measure that protects the pay of some but not all federal workers and provides no protection for disabled veterans and other federal beneficiaries would who might not receive full benefits in an extended government shutdown.
Obama told reporters Monday that he is “not at all” resigned to a government shutdown.