Senate OKs Budget Bill, But Fight Not Over

Sep 27, 2013
Originally published on September 27, 2013 4:20 pm

Update 2:08 p.m.: The Democratic-run Senate has approved legislation aimed at preventing a Tuesday federal shutdown.

Friday’s vote was 54-44.

But it remains unclear whether the Senate and the Republican-run House will be able to complete a compromise bill in time to get it to President Barack Obama for his signature before the government has to close.

That is because House GOP leaders are still struggling to figure out how they can win enough votes from conservatives to push a new version of the legislation through their chamber.

Conservatives have been trying to use the must-pass bill as a way to kill or weaken 2010 Obama’s health care law.

Before the Senate approved the overall bill, it voted to remove House-passed language that would have blocked money for Obamacare.

NPR’s Tamara Keith joins Here & Now to discuss the vote.

1:19 p.m.: The Senate has rejected an effort by young conservative senators to block a bill to avert a government shutdown on Tuesday.

Friday’s 79-19 vote marks an emphatic defeat for Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah. Their effort has sparked opposition from Democrats and from many GOP lawmakers, who worry the tactic could prompt a federal shutdown for which Republicans would be blamed.

Cruz and Lee are backed by outside conservative groups and have been trying to block a House-approved budget bill.

That’s because the bill would deny money for President Barack Obama’s health care law. They oppose the health care law and say blocking the budget bill will force Democrats to negotiate.


  • Tamara Keith, congressional correspondent for NPR. She tweets @tamarakeithNPR.
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And earlier today, the Senate passed a stop gap funding bill, 54 to 44 to keep the government running through mid-November without defunding the Affordable Care Act.

Now, NPR's Tamara Keith is there on Capitol Hill. And, Tamara, there are actually several votes today. The first one was about even taking up this bill.

Senator Ted Cruz said during his talk-a-thon earlier this week, that that vote was going to be a litmus test for Republicans, and it passed. It exceeded a 60-vote threshold. Explain.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: It certainly did. In fact, he only had 20 Republicans or, I think, actually 19 Republicans vote with him, which means that he didn't even get a majority of the Republicans to go along with his plan. So if it was a test, it seems as though he failed or they failed. I don't know failed. But it didn't turn out the way he wanted it to.

YOUNG: Well - and, of course, there are going to be Republicans who are going to present this as a failure of those Republicans to stay in line. Ted Cruz, of course, wanting them to keep the defunding of Affordable Care - Obamacare from the bill. So now you have the Senate bill without the defunding aspect. How else does it differ, if it does, from the House bill?

KEITH: The only other major difference is that it also shortens the length of time of this temporary funding extension for the government, and that's pretty noncontroversial. The interesting thing now is that it goes back to the House, and what does the House do with is the big question.

YOUNG: Well, what do you think the answer is?

KEITH: Today, I was over on the House side, talking to another of number of Republicans and Democrats. And you ask, what is happening? What's going on here? And they all pretty much say, we don't know. I think that House Republicans are very much divided, and they are currently strategizing in small groups. And the leadership is strategizing, and they're trying to figure out what their ask is going to be.

It seems pretty clear that they are not going to send this - they're not going to just accept what the Senate sends over. They're like to somehow change it. Hard-liners want to add a one-year delay of the health care law and just send it back to the Senate. Others say, hey, let's just add something smaller and send it back, maybe something the Senate can't refuse. But at the moment, no one really knows how this turns out, even in the next 24 hours.

YOUNG: OK. So this is the bill in Congress to keep government running. Separately, there is the debt ceiling, whether or not I can be raised. And yesterday, someone in the House said, they won't talk about a debt limit until the government funding bill is taken care of. So where are we on that?

KEITH: That's another shoulder-shrug situation. They just don't know what their strategy is. And now, the thought is, yes, they have to finish their work on the continuing resolution to keep the government open. And then they'll figure out what to ask for next in the debt ceiling negotiations.

Meanwhile, the president and Democrats are holding very firm. They're saying, they're simply not going to negotiate on this. And at the moment, at least, they are not blinking.

YOUNG: Well - and what about on the Republican side? You got a speaker, John Boehner, and people saying he hasn't been able to control the Republican Caucus.

KEITH: Yeah, exactly. And the question is, could he ask for help from Democrats and pass some of these measures and just get it over with? And you ask his members about that and they say that that would be absolutely devastating to his speakership. But at the moment, he is not in control. Every time he tries to do something, they send it back to him and say, you know, go back to the drawing board.

YOUNG: OK. Well, that is where we are, at the drawing board. NPR's congressional correspondent, Tamara Keith, thanks so much.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.