House G.O.P. Pushes Piecemeal Approach as Democrats Stand Firm

The Republicans suffered embarrassing losses on Tuesday night when the three bills — to finance veterans’ programs, national parks and museums, and federally financed services in Washington — failed to get the two-thirds majorities required to pass under fast-track procedures.

Aides to the Republican leadership said the bills would be introduced on Wednesday under ordinary rules that require only simple majorities, and they should easily pass. But Democrats are likely to be granted procedural votes of their own, which would be an opportunity to test how many Republicans would defy their leadership and vote to reopen the entire government without crippling President Obama’s health care law — the standoff that shut down the government at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday.

As public anger grows, more Republicans are coming forward to call for such a rebellion.

“The frustration and anger over Obamacare is being interpreted to be an all-or-nothing calculation,” said Representative Patrick Meehan, Republican of Pennsylvania, who now favors a simple stopgap spending measure to reopen the government. “People are very worried about Obamacare. Some of its pieces are problematic.

“But they want us to come here and work on problems across America, and we can’t get to doing that if both sides are dug in,” he said.

Democrats face pressure of their own to drop their stance of approving a spending bill only if it is free of policy prescriptions. Senate Democratic leaders say they plan to immediately kill all three of the piecemeal House bills, arguing that they will not be forced to choose between financing veterans’ programs or cancer research at the National Institutes of Health

Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, said Speaker John A. Boehner should “stop the games, think about the people he is hurting, and let the House pass the Senate’s bill to reopen the government with Republican and Democratic votes.”

Republicans said they planned to make Democrats pay a political price for voting against the bill financing veterans’ programs.

“In what can only be described as a disgraceful partisan maneuver, just after most of them voted for a government shutdown, House Democrats have now chosen to turn their backs on America’s veterans,” Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana said after 164 Democrats voted against the veterans bill, just enough to keep it from passing.

All three measures won significant support but still failed because of the two-thirds rule. The veterans bill, which would finance veterans’ disability payments, education benefits, job training and home loans, failed 264-183.

Another bill to reopen national parks, the Smithsonian and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and the United States Holocaust Museum, failed 252-176. And a bill to help the District of Columbia provide services fell 265-163.

Democrats say they will not negotiate any changes to the health care law, nor will they reopen the government piece by piece. To do so, they said, would only encourage Republican brinkmanship.

While some Republicans are ready to cave in, the House’s most ardent conservatives said they could win the battle for public opinion and, eventually, the war over the health care law, whose insurance exchanges opened for enrollment on Tuesday.

“I’m optimistic. At the end of the day, the American people usually get their way,” said Representative Tim Huelskamp, Republican of Kansas.

To many Senate Republicans, the House conservatives’ position has become mystifying. In a meeting of Senate Republicans, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee rose to ask how the party would respond if it controlled the White House and the Senate and a Democratic House insisted it would not finance the government unless Washington rolled back laws hampering unions.

Added Senator Richard M. Burr, Republican of North Carolina: “All the cards are held on one side of this.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/03/us/politics/congress-budget-battle.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

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