Deadline nearing, GOP seeks health care delay

WASHINGTON (AP) — Locked in a deepening

struggle with President Barack Obama, the Republican-controlled House

approved legislation

early Sunday imposing a one-year delay in key parts of the

nation's health care law and repealing a tax on medical devices

as the price for avoiding a partial government shutdown in a few

days' time.

Even before the House voted, Senate

Democrats pledged to reject the measure and the White House issued a

statement vowing

a veto in any event. Republicans are pursuing "a narrow

ideological agenda ... and pushing the government towards shutdown,"

it said.

The Senate is not scheduled to meet until

mid-afternoon on Monday, 10 hours before a shutdown would begin, and

even some Republicans

said privately they feared that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid,

D-Nev., held the advantage in the fast-approaching end

game. If so, a House GOP rank and file that includes numerous tea

party allies would soon have to choose between triggering

the first partial shutdown in nearly two decades — or coming away

empty-handed from their latest confrontation with Obama.

Undeterred, House Republicans pressed ahead

with their latest attempt to squeeze a concession from the White House

in exchange

for letting the government open for business normally on Tuesday.

"Obamacare is based on a limitless government, bureaucratic

arrogance and a disregard of a will of the people," said Rep.

Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind.

Another Republican, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, reacted angrily when asked whether he would eventually support a standalone

spending bill if needed to prevent a shutdown. "How dare you presume a failure? How dare you? How dare you?" he said.

Apart from its impact on the health care

law, the legislation that House Republicans decided to back would assure

routine

funding for government agencies through Dec. 15. Under House

rules, the measure went to the Senate after lawmakers voted 248-174

to repeal the medical tax, then 231-192 for the one-year delay in

Obamacare.

A companion measure to assure U.S. troops are paid in the event of a shutdown passed unanimously.

The government spending measure marked something of a reduction in demands by House Republicans, who passed legislation several

days ago that would permanently strip the health care law of money while providing funding for the government.

It also contained significant concessions

from a party that long has criticized the health care law for imposing

numerous

government mandates on industry, in some cases far exceeding what

Republicans have been willing to support in the past. Acknowledging

as much, Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said that as a conservative

he had often found during Obama's presidency that his choice

was "between something bad or (something) horrible."

GOP aides said that under the legislation

headed toward a vote, most portions of the health law that already have

gone into

effect would remain unchanged. That includes requirements for

insurance companies to guarantee coverage for pre-existing conditions

and to require children to be covered on their parents' plans

until age 26. It would not change a part of the law that reduces

costs for seniors with high prescription drug expenses.

One exception would give insurers or others the right not to provide abortion coverage, based on religious or moral objections.

The measure would delay implementation of a requirement for all individuals to purchase coverage or face a penalty, and of

a separate feature of the law that will create marketplaces where individuals can shop for coverage from private insurers.

By repealing the medical device tax, the GOP

measure also would raise deficits — an irony for a party that won the

House majority

in 2010 by pledging to get the nation's finances under control.

The Senate rejected the most recent

House-passed anti-shutdown bill on a party-line vote of 54-44 Friday,

insisting on a straightforward

continuation in government funding without health care-related

add-ons.

That left the next step up to the House — with time to avert a partial shutdown growing ever shorter.

For a moment at least, the revised House

proposal papered over a simmering dispute between Speaker John Boehner

and the rest

of the leadership, and tea party conservatives who have been more

militant about abolishing the health law that all Republican

lawmakers oppose.

It was unclear whether members of the rank and file had consulted with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has become the face of the

"Defund Obamacare" campaign that tea party organizations are promoting and using as a fundraising tool.

In debate on the House floor, Republicans adamantly rejected charges that they seek a government shutdown, and said their

goal is to spare the nation from the effects of a law they said would cost jobs and reduce the quality of care. The law is

an "attack and an assault on the free enterprise and the free economy," said Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas.

Democrats disagreed vociferously. "House Republicans are shutting down the government. They're doing it intentionally. They're

doing it on purpose," said Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland, as Republican lawmakers booed from their seats on the floor.

In the Senate, there was little doubt that

Reid had the votes to block a one-year delay in the health care program

widely

known as "Obamacare." The device tax seemed trickier, since 33

Democrats joined all Senate Republicans in supporting repeal

on a nonbinding vote earlier in the year. But aides said both

House-passed proposals would be rejected in a single vote.

The 2.3 percent tax, which took effect in

January, is imposed on items such as pacemakers and CT scan machines;

eyeglasses,

contact lenses, hearing aids and other items are exempt. Repealing

it would cost the government an estimated $29 billion over

the coming decade.

If lawmakers miss the approaching deadline, a wide range of federal programs would be affected, from the national parks to

the Pentagon.

Some critical services such patrolling the

borders, inspecting meat and controlling air traffic would continue.

Social Security

benefits would be sent and the Medicare and Medicaid health care

programs for the elderly and poor would continue to pay doctors

and hospitals.

The new health insurance exchanges would open Tuesday, a development that's lent urgency to the drive to use a normally routine

stopgap spending bill to gut implementation of the law.

On the vote to repeal the medical device tax, 17 Democrats sided with Republicans. Two Democrats supported the delay in the

health care law, and two Republicans opposed it.