WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. House voted last week for a stopgap bill that would keep the government running through mid-December, but also defund the landmark health care law.
The 230-189 party-line vote came on a Republican spending bill that would fund the government through Dec. 15 at reduced levels set by the budget-cutting sequester law.
But by stripping out funding for “Obamacare,” the GOP-led House erected an impasse with the Democrat-controlled Senate that could threaten a shutdown of large parts of the government if some agreement is not reached by Oct. 1.
“The American people don’t want the government shut down and they don’t want Obamacare,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said after the vote.
The Senate is expected to vote in the coming days on a spending bill that would keep on track the health care program that is preparing to accept enrollments on Oct. 1.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said any bill that defunds Obamacare would be “a waste of time” in the Senate.
The health care law that is being rolled out in stages would expand health coverage to 25 million people over the next 10 years, about half the population of uninsured. It also upgrades coverage for many procedures and contains other consumer protections.
Republicans, who have never supported the law and have tried insistently to kill it or ramp it back, say it will raise costs for families and businesses, and harm the economy.
Congressman Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., voted against the stopgap spending bill that would defund the health law. Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., did not vote.
Food stamp targeted for cuts
House Republicans also pushed through changes to the food stamp program that would result in about $4 billion in savings each year by toughening eligibility rules and limiting state waivers.
Republicans said reforms are needed to rein in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, program, which saw a 70 percent increase in participation between 2007 and 2011. About 45 million people received monthly benefits in 2011 at a cost of about $78 billion for the fiscal year.
Democrats objected to the proposed cuts saying the growth in SNAP usage was caused by a weak economy that has left many unemployed or underemployed. They claim that about 4 million low-income people would lose the benefit under the GOP reforms and hundreds of thousands more would see their benefits reduced.
The vote was 217-210. All but 15 Republicans voted for the bill. No Democrats voted for it.
The Senate included the nutrition programs in a broader farm bill that was approved earlier in the year with bipartisan support. That bill had reforms that would trim the program by about a tenth as much as the House, or $400 million a year.
Kilmer voted against the bill. Herrera Beutler did not vote.