WASHINGTON – A marathon day of brinkmanship lurching toward a government shutdown presented conflicts for several key Minnesotans in Congress, forcing them to compromise on their own stated priorities.
U.S. Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen have said they oppose a government shutdown. But on Monday night they joined all but 12 of their GOP colleagues in voting for a funding resolution that effectively did just that.
The final measure adopted by the House — and quickly rejected by the Senate — continued to tie ongoing funding to a one-year delay in implementing key elements of Obamacare, a linkage that President Obama and Senate Democrats already had rejected earlier in the day.
An earlier Senate vote required explanations from Minnesota Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, because it also undid a House provision repealing the law’s tax on medical-device makers, an important industry in Minnesota. Both senators said they are still committed to repealing the tax, but not as a condition of keeping the government open.
The last GOP proposal — minus the device tax repeal — represented a slight ratcheting down from two previous House-passed resolutions defunding or delaying Obamacare in its entirety. The slight move to the center prompted Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann and others from the party’s conservative wing to vote against the GOP measure. She was the only Minnesotan to break party ranks.
It also gave the GOP a populist talking point by eliminating health benefit subsidies for members of Congress and their staffs.
As the stare-down continued, Kline and Paulsen steadfastly refused to say whether they would vote for a straightforward extension of government funding. But even with the new anti-Obamacare language in the House measure, they said they were voting to keep government lights on.
“The House has voted for a third time to keep the government running and protect Americans from the president’s fatally flawed health care law, while the Senate and White House sit idly by refusing to compromise,” Kline said.
“I continue to vote for bipartisan legislation to ensure the government stays open,” Paulsen said. “Minnesotans expect their government to work, and I remain committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to avert a shutdown.”
Klobuchar and Franken portrayed the House measure repealing the medical-device tax as a partisan gambit to undermine the new health care system, which begins enrolling people on Tuesday.
“Right now I think we need to be focused on passing a bill that would keep the government open,” Klobuchar said.
Franken called the GOP attempt to use the device tax as a bargaining chip a mistake. “The best chance we have to pass a repeal of the medical-device tax that the president will sign into law is through bipartisan cooperation.”