House passes Continuing Resolution defunding Obamacare
As expected, the House passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government past September 30 that contained a provision to defund the President's signature healthcare law - the Affordable Care Act - more commonly known as Obamacare. The measure passed the House by a margin of 230 to 189.
The vote to tie defunding Obamacare to a CR came after House Republicans rejected a plan crafted by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) that would have allowed the House to vote to continue funding the government and vote to defund Obamacare but would have given the Senate the ability to pass the CR portion while rejecting the defunding portion.
Cruz leads Senate "filibuster"
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), a Tea Party favorite, led a 21-hour faux "filibuster" on the floor of the Senate this week. Cruz and a handful of his colleagues used the 21-hours to criticize Obamacare. The 21-hour "filibuster" is the fourth longest in the history of the Senate, but was not technically a "filibuster" since Cruz's efforts came after the Senate had already agreed to the time for length of debate for the CR - indeed, Cruz's "filibuster" did little to even slow consideration of the CR.
After Cruz's marathon speech - which included a reading of "Green Eggs and Ham," Toby Keith lyrics and quotes from the TV show "Duck Dynasty" - he joined all of his colleagues in voting to move forward to consider the CR he was "filibustering."
Senate expected to vote on CR today
The Senate is expected to vote on a series of procedural moves that will result in a Continuing Resolution, without a provision for defunding Obamacare, being passed and sent back to the House. The House, Senate and White House now have until just midnight on Monday to avert a government shutdown.
White House stumps for rollout of Affordable Care Act
As the House and Senate wrestled with efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act - more commonly known as Obamacare - the White House kicked off a six month effort aimed at getting millions of uninsured Americans to sign up for healthcare coverage. The healthcare exchanges, which are the centerpiece of the President's healthcare law, open for enrollment on October 1.
A $1 billion advertising campaign is expected by insurance companies to encourage Americans to enroll for coverage. This effort will be aided by several grassroots progressive groups that were instrumental in President Obama's election in 2008 and re-election in 2012.
While the White House, insurance companies and progressive groups are rolling out efforts aimed at encouraging the uninsured to enroll for coverage, the Republican National Committee has unveiled an "Obamacare Train Wreck" website and other conservative groups have gone further by encouraging uninsured Americans to not sign up for healthcare coverage.
House Republicans to tie debt ceiling increase to legislative wish list
It appears that House Republicans will tie an increase in the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling to a broad legislative wish list that includes delaying Obamacare for a full year.
The House Republican wish list, which has been circulating on K Street, indicates the GOP also hopes to use the debt ceiling increase to jump-start tax reform efforts, move forward on the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and trim a series of federal regulations - including regulations contained in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform legislation and relating to the controversial Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Such a move by the House would set up a showdown with the White House. President Obama has repeatedly said that he would not negotiate with Republicans on the debt ceiling and has demanded the House move a "clean" debt ceiling increase bill.
The first House vote on the debt ceiling was expected to come as early as today; however, early Friday morning it appeared that an initial vote would be delayed. The House, Senate and White House have until October 17 to hammer out a deal. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew notified Congress on Wednesday that a measure needs to be passed by that deadline.
Senate moves to save Helium Program
This isn't a typo. Not a whole lot of folks in Washington have given much thought to a Federal Helium Program until recently that is. This week the Senate, by a 97-2 vote, joined the House in moving to save the little known Federal Helium Program.
As part of the Helium Program, the U.S. government stores vast amounts of the gas in a rock formation under Texas, then sells it for use in everything from party balloons to MRI machines. The program, however, is slated for shut down on October 7, as a result of a law passed in 1996.
Failure to renew the program would have led to a helium shortage, which could affect both medical facilities and laboratories that use the gas in low-temperature research. The federal program accounts for about 42 percent of the U.S. supply yearly and the program pays for itself with proceeds from the helium sales.
The legislation now goes to conference to iron out differences between the House and Senate versions.
Alabama 1st Congressional District Special: Former State Sen. Bradley Byrne and businessman Dean Young, a favorite of the tea party, prevailed in the nine-person primary in Alabama's First Congressional District on Tuesday.
Michigan 3rd Congressional District: Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), a Tea Party favorite and rising libertarian leader, is expected to face a stiff primary challenge from businessman Brian Ellis.
Michigan 11th Congressional District: Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI), a Tea Party favorite who won his election only because of a last minute withdrawal by former Rep. Thad McCotter in 2012, will face a well-funded primary challenge from businessman Dave Trott.
Iowa: Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) announced this week that he intends to seek re-election in 2016.
North Carolina: State Senator Phil Berger (R-NC) announced on Monday that he would not challenge Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) in 2014. Berger's announcement leaves State Rep. Thom Tillis (R-NC) as the most likely nominee for the party.
A look ahead:
Tuesday, October 1 -- The House Judiciary Committee's Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee will hold a hearing on Implementation of an Entry-Exit System: Still Waiting After all These Years at 1:00 p.m. at 2141 Rayburn.
Tuesday, October 1 -- The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on The Navy Yard Tragedy: Examining Government Clearances and Background Checks at 10:30 a.m. at 342 Dirksen.
Wednesday, October 2 -- The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the oversight of government surveillance programs under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act at 10:00 a.m. in 226 Dirksen.
Washington by the numbers
15 - The percentage of Americans who don't use the Internet.
“We’re getting the living crap beaten out of us...They just beat the living daylights out of little West Virginia, but they sure like what we produce.” – Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on new EPA coal-plant regulations. (Daily Caller)
"How about that senator from Texas, Ted Cruz. He gets a hold of the microphone on the floor of the Senate and he starts yakking for 21 hours. I'm telling you, that government shutdown certainly looks pretty good now, doesn't it?" –David Letterman
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