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Shutdown nearing, US House seeks health care delay

The Republican-controlled House approved legislation imposing a one-year delay on key parts of the nation\'s health care law and repealing a tax on medical devices.

Published: 29th September 2013 11:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th September 2013 11:53 AM   |  A+A-

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The Republican-controlled House approved legislation early Sunday imposing a one-year delay on key parts of the nation's health care law and repealing a tax on medical devices as the price for avoiding a partial government shutdown on Tuesday.

Senate Democrats had already pledged to reject the measure and the White House issued a statement vowing a veto in any event. Republicans are pursuing "a narrow ideological agenda ... and pushing the government towards shutdown," it said.

The Senate is not scheduled to meet until mid-afternoon on Monday, 10 hours before a shutdown would begin, and even some Republicans said privately they feared that Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid held the advantage.

The Senate had rejected the most recent House-passed anti-shutdown bill on a party-line vote of 54-44 on Friday, insisting on a straightforward continuation in government funding without health care-related add-ons.

That left the next step up to the House — with time to avert a partial shutdown growing ever shorter.

The House Republican Party rank and file that includes numerous conservative tea party allies will soon have to choose between triggering the first partial shutdown in nearly two decades — or coming away empty-handed from their latest confrontation in the deepening struggle with President Barack Obama.

Undeterred, House Republicans pressed ahead with their latest attempt to squeeze a concession from the White House in exchange for letting the government open for business normally on Tuesday.

"Obamacare is based on a limitless government, bureaucratic arrogance and a disregard of a will of the people," said Republican Rep. Marlin Stutzman.

Apart from its impact on the health care law, the legislation that House Republicans decided to back would assure routine funding for government agencies through Dec. 15. Under House rules, the measure went to the Senate after lawmakers voted 248-174 to repeal the medical tax, then 231-192 for the one-year delay in Obamacare.

A companion measure headed for approval assures U.S. troops are paid in the event of a shutdown.

The government spending measure marked something of a reduction in demands by House Republicans, who passed legislation several days ago that would permanently strip the health care law of money while providing funding for the government.

It also contained significant concessions from a party that long has criticized the health care law for imposing numerous government mandates on industry, in some cases far exceeding what Republicans have been willing to support in the past.

Republican aides said that under the legislation headed toward a vote, most portions of the health law that already have gone into effect would remain unchanged. That includes requirements for insurance companies to guarantee coverage for pre-existing conditions and to require children to be covered on their parents' plans until age 26. It would not change a part of the law that reduces costs for seniors with high prescription drug expenses.

One exception would give insurers or others the right not to provide abortion coverage, based on religious or moral objections.

The measure would delay implementation of a requirement for all individuals to purchase coverage or face a penalty, and of a separate feature of the law that will create marketplaces where individuals can shop for coverage from private insurers.

By repealing the medical device tax, the Republican measure also would raise deficits — an irony for a party that won the House majority in 2010 by pledging to get the nation's finances under control.

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