WASHINGTON - The Senate approved 54-44 Friday a stopgap spending bill through mid-November to head off a government shutdown in three days, but the legislation has inflamed House Republicans because it stripped out a provision to defund President Obama's health care law.
Minutes earlier, they voted 54-44 to strip the defunding language from the bill.
Senate conservatives pledged to keep up their efforts to dismantle the law. "This vote is not the end. It's not even the beginning of the end," said Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he will not accept a "clean" funding bill and intends to amend it and send it back to the Senate by Monday. However, House Republicans are unsure how, exactly, to respond.
The House adjourned Friday but is scheduled to be in session over the weekend.
There is "uncertainty in their own caucus," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday, "I don't think we know what we'll be voting on from what minute to the next, because I don't think they know what we'll be voting on from one moment to the next."
Pelosi said Democrats will vote in support of the Senate funding bill, but Boehner is under pressure from House conservatives to again try to use the spending bill to rein in the health care law.
Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., said lawmakers were debating a number of alternatives to the Senate funding bill but said as of Friday, the next steps were murky. "To be honest with you, I don't know," he said. "We haven't coalesced around a consensus yet."
House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., who is charged with drafting the spending bill, said he was awaiting a decision from GOP leaders. "I'd be open to whatever leadership thinks we should do," he said.
House Republicans are also working to put together a legislative package tied to an impending vote to raise the debt ceiling, the nation's borrowing limit, that will hit Oct. 17, according to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. The bill would suspend the debt ceiling through the 2014 elections in exchange for a one-year delay of implementation of the health care law and instructions on how to overhaul the federal tax code without raising additional revenue.
The package also includes a grab-bag of perennially popular GOP legislation that is unpalatable to Democrats, such as construction of a new oil pipeline from Canada to Texas, and increasing means testing for Medicaid recipients.
President Obama has maintained that he will veto any legislation that seeks to delay or defund his signature domestic achievement, and Democrats have vowed not to negotiate over the debt ceiling.
Susan Davis, USA TODAY