The Senate this morning quickly killed a message from the House to establish a bicameral conference committee to reconcile differences between the two chambers' short-term, stopgap spending bills.
The 54-46 party-line procedural move to table, or kill, the House offer came on the first day of a government shutdown in which all but essential services and personnel were told to stay home. The Senate vote was designed to show House Republicans that Democrats are committed to passing a "clean" bill free of extraneous policy riders.
Democratic leaders say that under no circumstance will they negotiate a bill aimed to keep the government operational around any provision related to President Barack Obama's signature health care law, which faced a major implementation milestone Tuesday as state exchanges opened for the first time.
“We will not go to conference with a gun to our heads,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in the wee hours of the morning, as the government prepared to shut down for the first time since the Bill Clinton-Newt Gingrich showdown 17 years ago.
In the pre-dawn hours Tuesday, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, named conferees to a panel that likely never will convene. They were: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and Reps. John Carter, R-Texas, Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., and Tom Graves, R-Ga.
Though Boehner named only the eight Republican conferees, it appears his gesture — choosing not to appoint tea party members completely uninterested in negotiating — went for naught.
While the proposal does little to bring the government out of a shutdown, it does end the House’s game of legislative pingpong.
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.
The House is scheduled to convene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, and the president is set to make a statement from the Rose Garden at 12:25 p.m.