Even as the federal government is now experiencing a partial shutdown for the first time in 17 years, the Senate has rejected a House motion to form a conference committee to negotiate the differences between the two chambers. As a result, the standoff continues, with no clear resolution in sight.
Congress has a provision for the creation of a “conference” if the House and Senate cannot reach an agreement. The conference provides an opportunity for leaders from each chamber to engage in closed-door negotiations and possibly reach a compromise that will ultimately be voted on by both chambers.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev., shown) has outright refused to appoint negotiators, declaring that he and his fellow Democrats are not interested in negotiating until the House bends.
Reid explained the Democrat position on Monday night. “We will not go to conference with a gun to our head. We will not go to conference until we get a clean [continuing resolution],” he declared on the Senate floor.
But House Republicans are resigned to tie ObamaCare to a funding measure, as the next phase of the president's healthcare law begins today, with Americans signing up for taxpayer-funded health insurance through the federal government.
The latest proposal by the House was rejected in the Senate by 54-46 — a complete party line vote. As noted by Time magazine, it is the third time in the last two days that the Senate has voted down a House measure that ties federal spending to the healthcare law.
Democrats have spurned proposals to delay the individual mandate, even as the White House has approved a similar delay granted to big businesses. Senate Democrats have also turned down a proposal that would have ended an ObamaCare exemption for lawmakers and their staffs.
Without a deal, the government’s funding authority is expiring with more than 800,000 federal employees furloughed.
"All over America, federal employees were given four hours this morning to clear of their emails, computers and close their offices," Senator Reid said. "The government is closed because of the irrationality of what is going on, on the other side of the Capitol."
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Photo of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.): AP Images