Photo: House of Representatives
The U.S. House of Representatives voted Saturday to retroactively pay some 800,000 idled federal employees once the government shutdown, now in its fifth day, comes to an end.
In a rare instance of bipartisanship, the Republican-controlled chamber voted unanimously to pass the measure. It will now go to the Democrat-led Senate and then to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.
The partial suspension of federal government operations, which began at midnight Monday, was spurred by the unwillingness of some House Republicans to vote to fund the government unless Obama and the Democrats agreed to delay implementation of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
The ACA, also known as Obamacare, is the administration’s flagship domestic initiative and the president refused to consider any changes or delays.
In his Saturday radio address, Obama urged House Republicans to “stop the farce” and “end this shutdown now” by passing a budget without strings attached.
The Senate has already approved a budget and “there are enough Republican and Democratic votes in the House of Representatives willing to do the same, and end this shutdown immediately,” the president said.
National parks and museums have been shuttered as a result of the standoff, which has also disrupted the operations of government contractors.
Obama earlier this week put the blame for the impasse squarely on the Republican leader in the House, saying “the only thing that is keeping the government shut down ... is that Speaker John Boehner won’t even let the bill get a yes or no vote because he doesn’t want to anger the extremists in his party.”
House Republicans backed by the Tea Party, a political movement that wants to severely reduce the size of the federal government, has sough\t to use the budget vote to try to force Democrats to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Tea Party Republicans say the law, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last year, violates Americans’ constitutional rights by obligating them to purchase private health insurance.
They also claim that Obamacare will hurt the economy, although Democrats have countered by saying the shutdown is doing far more damage.
The GOP’s hardline proponents of small government also want concessions in exchange for raising the nation’s $16.7 trillion debt ceiling, which must be increased by Oct. 17 to avoid an unprecedented U.S. debt default.
Boehner has told his Republican colleagues, however, that he will not allow the country to go into default, according to press reports.