WASHINGTON — With a week to figure out how to keep the government open, leading senators in the fight over defunding Obamacare began a complicated procedural dance on Monday and exchanged sharp jabs.
As lawmakers squabbled, some federal agencies began preparing for a government shutdown. The White House budget office has ordered all agencies to make contingency plans, and the U.S. Department of Defense sent a memo to employees Monday warning that civilian workers could face furloughs if the government shuts down on Oct. 1.
“While military personnel would continue in a normal duty status, a large number of our civilian employees would be temporarily furloughed,” Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in the memo.
Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters that “a shutdown would put severe hardships on an already stressed workforce, and is totally unnecessary.”
The Republican-controlled House approved a bill on Friday that would provide funding through Dec. 15 for all government activities except the health care law.
The Senate, controlled by Democrats, began debate Monday on that bill.
The procedural tactics to strip the House language regarding Obamacare could consume the entire week.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who will control the process, said, “The Affordable Care Act has been the law of the land for four years. Democrats are willing to work with reasonable Republicans to improve this law.
“But we will not bow to tea party anarchists who deny the mere fact that Obamacare is the law ... The simple fact remains: Obamacare is the law of the land, and it will remain the law of the land as long as Barack Obama is president of the United States and as long as I am the Senate majority leader.”