Last Week’s Activity on FY 2014 Appropriations

With a party-line vote, on Friday, September 27, the Senate amended the FY 2014 Continuing Resolution (CR) (H. J. Res. 59) as it was approved by the House on September 20, to restore funding for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148, P.L. 111-152) and shorten the duration of the CR to November 15.

House Moves (Again) on Continuing Resolution

In the latest volley of the CR, early Sunday morning the House amended the “clean” CR sent over by the Senate last week and approved the new version by a vote of 231-192. The House modified the bill by approving two amendments:

  1. A repeal of the 2.3 percent medical device tax which was designed to help fund the implementation of the ACA. The amendment was approved by a 248-174 vote, with seventeen Democrats joining all House Republicans voting in favor of the amendment.
  2. A one-year implementation delay for all provisions of the ACA (not just the individual mandate). The vote was nearly along party lines, with the exception of New York Republican Reps. Richard Hanna (R-NY) and Chris Gibson (R-NY), who voted against the amendment, and Democratic Reps. Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Mike McIntyre (D-NC) who voted in favor of the amendment.

The House also changed the expiration date of the CR back to December 15 and included a provision allowing an exemption to the contraceptive coverage mandate for religious or moral reasons. Separately, the House also passed by unanimous vote H.R. 3210, to continue pay for military personnel in the event of a government shutdown. Over the weekend, the President issued a veto threat of any CR that includes either of the two amendments proposed by the House, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called the House action “pointless.”

Expected Senate Action on the Continuing Resolution

The Senate is scheduled to reconvene at 2:00 p.m. today, just 10 hours before the shutdown would begin. While the exact process remains unclear, it is likely that Majority Leader Reid will move to swiftly reject the House amendments through a filibuster-proof procedure that requires only a simple majority vote, thereby sending back to the House the same “clean” CR the Senate sent to them on Friday. Under Senate rules and recent precedent, Majority Leader Reid could table both amendments with one vote (making it easier from a political perspective for Democrats to reject both amendments at once, instead of having to vote separately and risk unity on a vote to repeal the medical device tax, which some Democrats have supported previously). The Senate could send the CR back to House by late this afternoon.

Likelihood of a Government Shutdown

A potential government shutdown will depend on the actions of House leadership today. The three most likely options for the House are:

  1. Concur with the Senate, thereby sending the clean CR to the President for signature;
  2. Amend the Senate bill further; or
  3. Refuse to take the Senate bill up (least likely).

Last Friday, September 27, 235 business groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reiterated their message to Congress to put aside political brinkmanship and address broader fiscal issues outside of the CR and debt ceiling increase. Therefore, as the clock approaches midnight, there will be increasing pressure for the House to accept the Senate bill and avoid further attempts to amend the legislation and create delays that would most likely lead to a temporary shutdown.

Debt ceiling

The House delayed introduction of debt ceiling legislation until after the FY 2014 CR is resolved, in part because conservative House Republicans object to the debt ceiling plan as proposed by leadership last week.