Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images
WASHINGTON - The House voted 230-189 along party lines Friday to approve a stopgap spending bill to fund the federal government through mid-December, but it is facing certain defeat in the Senate because it includes language aiming to dismantle President Obama's health care law.
Without a stopgap spending bill, the federal government will feel the effects of a shutdown when the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. The bill extends the current rate of government spending at $986 billion a year.
House Republicans attached a provision to defund the Affordable Care Act, a consistent target of congressional Republicans. However, the provision has no chance of approval in the Democratic-controlled Senate and it faces a veto threat from Obama.
Next week, the Senate is expected to begin debate on the spending bill, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will strip out the health care language and send a bill back to the House that simply extends current spending.
If the Senate runs out the clock on the time for debate, the vote could come as late as next weekend, giving House GOP leaders less than 48 hours to respond.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has not committed to allowing a vote on a spending bill that does not address the health care law. House Republicans will then have three options: reject it, pass it or amend it and send it back to the Senate again.
The effects of a shutdown would not be immediately felt by most Americans. Essential government programs such as air traffic control, Social Security, Medicare and mail delivery would all continue, but national parks and museums would be closed, and agency operations would slow down or stop. The White House and the U.S. Congress would continue to operate as well.
But the political risks are great. The last time the government shut down was during the Clinton administration in a budget battle against Republicans led by then-speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., which resulted in a public backlash against the GOP.
Boehner has said Republicans are not seeking a government shutdown, but eye it as an opportunity to start a broader offensive against the health care law. Republicans are also seeking to delay the implementation of the law for one year in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, the nation's borrowing limit.
Susan Davis, USA TODAY