Updated 1:35 a.m. | Now locked in a budget standoff during a government shutdown, House Republicans passed a face-saving measure early Tuesday morning that would request a conference with the Senate on the continuing resolution to fund the government.
Speaker John A. Boehner told reporters early Tuesday morning that Republicans want to keep the government open but want "basic fairness" for the American people under Obamacare.
The House agreed to the motion to conference in a 228-199 vote with seven Democrats joining most Republicans in support of the tactic. Nine Republicans rejected the resolution.
The motion to conference would ask the Senate to agree to the House’s last offer — which included a one-year delay of Obamacare’s individual mandate and a provision eliminating health benefits for members of Congress and their staff — and attempt to move the House and Senate to negotiate sizable differences on the CR.
But the proposal is going nowhere, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The Nevada Republican said Monday night, “We will not go to conference with a gun to our head.”
While the proposal does little to bring the government out of a shutdown, it does end the House’s game of legislative ping pong.
On Monday night, the Senate rejected the House’s third offer on the CR within an hour of House passage. Earlier in the day, the Senate tabled the House’s Saturday offer within 25 minutes of the opening gavel.
Meanwhile, House Republicans are banking on Americans blaming the Senate and the White House for refusing to negotiate.
But while Republicans followed that rhetoric into a government shutdown, Democrats took their own talking points to the House floor early Tuesday morning.
“This stunt tonight doesn't end one thing to end the government shutdown,” said the Appropriations Committee’s ranking Democrat, Nita M. Lowey of New York. “We should call it what it is: a last-ditch attempt to not be blamed for a government shutdown.”
“It’s a fig leaf," said Budget ranking Democrat Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. “It’s not going to give them any political cover.”
In response, House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas, delivered what has become a familiar set of Republican talking points.
“The president will negotiate with Iranians and negotiate with Syria,” Hensarling said. “But won't negotiate with Americans if they happen to be Republicans.”
As debate wrapped up, Democrats and Republicans demonstrated just how far apart they are on the CR, applauding members of their own party and jeering members of the other.
Meanwhile, Reid's staff was considering leaking emails between his chief of staff and the speaker's chief of staff in an attempt to reveal the private musings of the GOP leader on the Republicans' push to eliminate health care benefits for lawmakers and their staff.
If that partisanship is any indication of the future of the CR, the government could be shut down for quite a while longer.