Weekend of work ahead for Congress

As expected, the Senate on Friday approved a stop gap budget plan from Democrats that dropped Republican efforts to block money for the Obama health law, as a deal to avoid a government shutdown remained elusive in the halls of Congress.

“I don’t know of anyone who wants to shutdown the government,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). “All we want to do is shutdown Obamacare.”

That basically boils down where we are at this point – a number of Republicans say they will settle for nothing less than a budget measure that attacks the Obama health law, while Democrats say there is no way they will accept that.

“To be absolutely clear – we are going to accept nothing that relates to Obamacare,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who urged House Republicans to simply accept the Democratic plan to fund the government at current levels through mid-November.

And that was echoed at the White House.

“I said this yesterday; let me repeat it:  That’s not going to happen,” the President said of efforts to undercut his health reform law.

So, what’s next?

As the Senate voted 54-44 along party lines to approve what’s referred to as the “CR” (Continuing Resolution), there was no answer on how Republicans in the House would respond – instead, lawmakers big and small on the GOP side simply said, “I don’t know.”

“I think the House will probably send something back,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), referring to the idea that Republicans will amend the Senate version of the CR.

“What that will be, I don’t know yet,” Cole added, as rank and file Republicans waited to hear the strategy choices of their leadership.

“We’re talking and thinking,” said Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY), the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

“I have no idea,” said Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH), a close ally of Speaker Boehner.

As the House took two quick votes on Friday morning, the Speaker could be seen moving around the Republican side of the House floor, speaking with different lawmakers in what seemed to be serious conversations.

One possibility was for the House to send back a stop gap budget bill with a rider that delays the Obama health law for a year, or maybe delays in the individual mandate.

While that might get through the House, it again faces rejection in the Senate.

“Let them look at the cold, hard facts and numbers on the floor of the Senate,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), arguing that Republicans are wasting time by pursuing another effort to block the health law.

So, the Congress faces a weekend of work. With no clear way forward. And a government shutdown looming on Monday night at midnight.

“Now the ball is in Speaker Boehner’s court,” said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).

Stay tuned.