The dark clouds of a government shutdown loomed over Washington Monday with government offices preparing to shut down in the coming hours while waiting for Congress to act.
The House dug in its heels and refused to give up on trying to prevent the spending of any money on the Affordable Care Act. Congress’ lower chamber passed a bill on Saturday to fund government and avoid the shutdown with amendments attached that would delay the health care law, called Obamacare by some, and erase a tax on medical devices.
That left the Senate to take up the issue again Monday afternoon. As expected, the Democratic-controlled Senate squashed the House amendments, voting 54-46 to table them and send the short-term spending bill back to the House.
Democratic Senate leaders quickly followed with tough statements for House members.
“We are not going to be bullied,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a news conference that quickly followed the vote.
The deadline for an agreement was midnight Tuesday.
According to a mid-September report by the Office of Personnel Management, 159,651 Hispanics were working in the federal government by the end of fiscal year 2012. An additional number of Latinos contract with the federal government or have businesses that thrive in connection with government operations.
George Rodriguez, president of the Tea Party-affiliated South Texas Political Alliance, said the impact will be limited to Hispanics who work for or have contracts with the government.
“Mom and pop stores, those on the corner, those private businesses, they are not going to be impacted. This is all a scare tactic on the part of the government, that planes are going to fall out of the air and people are going to be starving on street. That will happen if we don’t get the budget under control,” Rodriguez said.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, speaking from the House floor Monday, criticized Democrats for failing to take up the issue on Sunday after the House acted.
“Well my goodness, if there’s such an emergency, where are they? It’s time for the Senate to listen to the American people _ just like the House has listened to the American people _ and pass a one-year delay of Obamacare and permanent repeal of the medical device tax.”
President Obama immediately answered that the Senate already acted by passing a bill that kept government open for several more weeks while work could be done on a budget “that ensures we’re not
shutting down the government and we’re not shutting down the economy at a time when a lot of families out there are just getting some traction and digging themselves out of the hole that we’ve had as a consequence of the financial crisis.”
On Sunday’s “Meet The Press,” Sen. Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, said the best way for people to get health insurance is to get a job. The Affordable Care Act is the “biggest job killer in this country,” he said.
He cited a U.S. Chamber of Commerce study that said half of the small businesses subject to the mandate to ensure employees – those with 50 or more workers – were reducing people’s hours to 29 a week or less, hiring part-timers or keeping the size of their staff to under 50 workers.
On a conference call Monday, John Arensmeyer, founder of the Small Business Majority, said the law actually will help small businesses offer insurance to employees. According to his group’s polling, two-thirds of small business owners say they’d use a health insurance exchange set up by the law for businesses to shop for insurance plans.
The exchanges will allow small businesses for the first time to band together and leverage their buying power, said Arsensmeyer, who admits he is a Democrat, but whose group is nonpartisan.
“Now is the perfect time to educate small business owners on how the health care law can help them and how they can seize this unique opportunity,” Arensmeyer said.
Javier Palomarez, CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, expressed support for affordable health care as crucial for the well-being of American workers and businesses.
“The Affordable Care Act provides benefits for the millions of small business owners and small business employees by expanding coverage options, increasing purchasing and giving consumers control, frankly, over their own health care,” Palomarez said.
White House officials have said the shutdown won’t affect the opening of the health insurance marketplaces where President Barack Obama last week urged Americans to go to and start browsing their choices for health care insurance.
Other government offices Monday, however, were starting to review what the process will be for shuttering offices should the government shut down.