Lines have been drawn and heels dug in as Congress fails to reach agreement and non-essential parts of the federal government to shut down.
House Republicans have made an offer: delay the federal healthcare law’s individual mandate in exchange for an extension in funding the federal government.
Congressman Adrian Smith, a Republican, notes President Obama delayed the business mandate.
“We’re just being consistent. Certainly, if large companies get an exemption I think individuals should as well,” Smith tells Nebraska Radio Network.
Smith calls the latest Republican offer a “watered down” version of the initial offer, which would have stripped funding for the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare.
Smith insists Republicans are acting in good faith to protect Americans from problems in the healthcare law, not acting to harm the economy as suggested by Democrats. He says the law has many flaws that the public is just now learning about, such as a provision that provides Congress a special break on health insurance premiums.
The House and Senate have spent the eve of the federal fiscal year in a tug-of-war of sorts. The House, controlled by Republicans, has approved a measure defunding the Affordable Care Act. The Senate, controlled by Democrats, has rejected it. The House then approved a provision to fund the federal government if the individual insurance mandate contained in the 2010 federal healthcare law is delayed. The Senate rejected that.
The funding bill is merely a short-term fix. It would provide enough money to keep the federal government running until mid-December.
Congress is flirting with the first government shutdown in 17 years. Under a shutdown, non-essential services provided by the government would be suspended. More than 800,000 federal workers would be furloughed, according to the White House. Essential services, such as the military, would continue.
A shutdown could create a substantial hit to the Nebraska economy. Plans call for the United States Strategic Command, STRATCOM, to furlough 85% of its civilian workforce largely drawn from greater Omaha.
Congressman Jeff Fortenberry blames the Senate for failing to negotiate with the House. Fortenberry tells Kevin Thomas, host of Drive Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN, he doesn’t see his fellow Republicans giving in.
“I suspect there is a growing disposition on our side of the aisle in the House that we’ve made an offer and it’s time for the Senate to act,” Fortenberry says.
Fortenberry says most Americans won’t notice a government shutdown as long as it doesn’t last long.
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:40]