Alex Brandon/AP File Photo

House Approves Measure to Keep Government Open Past Sept. 30

Bill would also defund health care reform law; Senate vows to strip out Obamacare language, edging government closer to a shutdown.

The House passed a temporary spending measure on Friday to fund the government past the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 and defund President Obama’s health care reform law.

As expected, the lower chamber approved a continuing resolution that funds agencies through Dec. 15 and keeps the sequester in place, by a vote of 230-189. But it also includes language starving the 2010 Affordable Care Act of money and directs the government to prioritize payments on the debt held by the public and Social Security benefits if the debt limit is reached. The government is expected to default on its obligations sometime between Oct. 18 and Nov. 5 if Congress does not increase the debt limit.

The Senate is expected to take out the language related to defunding the 2010 Affordable Care Act and send a “clean” temporary spending measure back to the House next week, edging the government closer to an Oct. 1 shutdown. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said that any bill defunding the health care reform law is “dead on arrival in the Senate.”

During a Thursday press briefing, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, would not speculate on what would happen once the bill leaves the House. “The fight here has been won; the fight there [Senate] is just beginning,” Boehner said.

President Obama will veto a measure to keep the government open past Sept. 30 if it reaches his desk in its current form, according to a statement from the White House. The White House said it would support a short-term CR to avoid a government shutdown, but not one that guts Obama’s signature policy achievement and “advances a narrow ideological agenda that threatens our economy and the interests of the middle class.” The Office of Management and Budget issued guidance this week directing agencies to prepare for a possible shutdown.

If the government shut downs, then all “non-essential” federal employees will be furloughed beginning Oct. 1. Most “essential” employees perform jobs in defense, health care or other areas of national security and/or emergency-related fields, and while they are paid, their paychecks could be delayed during a hiatus. Lawmakers still are on the federal payroll during a shutdown; other employees not subject to furlough include the president, presidential appointees, and certain legislative branch staff.

The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers on Thursday urged the Obama administration to support back pay for federal employees if there is a government shutdown, and not to use retroactive pay “as a bargaining chip to extract something in return.”