Senator sees compromise as unlikely

As the threat of a federal government shutdown loomed Monday, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, told the Sun-Gazette he was voting for a spending bill that would fund the government – without, of course, any amendments pertaining to the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

“We have proposed a clean, continuing resolution, and we can have fights and debates later,” Casey said.

True to his word, Casey voted to pass the resolution, and it passed in the Senate 54-46. U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville, voted against it.

The House and Senate have been volleying various versions of a spending bill. Over the weekend, the House came back with two amendments – one that would delay Obamacare for a year, and one that would repeal its medical device tax.

Casey, however, said health care should not be part of the bill, and put a dire forecast on the feasibility of the spending bill’s passage if the House keeps pushing it.

“If we’re going to walk into these discussions with an ideology about the Affordable Care Act, I’m not sure we’re ever going to resolve it,” he said, predicting a government shutdown.

A one-year repeal of Obamacare ultimately would make healthcare more expensive, deny millions of people coverage and benefits, and increase the deficit by $24 billion, according to the Democratic Policy and Communications Center.

Casey said he wasn’t sure why House conservatives are so staunchly against letting Obamacare go into effect, as its marketplaces go into effect today, where millions of uninsured Americans can shop online to see if they qualify for government-subsidized healthcare coverage.

“We’re going to know in six months to a year whether it’s working or not,” Casey said, stating parts of the health care law have already gone into effect, such as children staying on their parents’ coverage until age 26, among others.

He questioned what would happen if Obamacare was repealed.

“It’s a real question, even if they prevailed on repealing, whether (the healthcare marketplaces) would stop from going into effect tomorrow,” he said.

As to why Republicans have tied defunding Obamacare to the spending bill, Casey said it has to do with raised expectations.

“Politicians have elevated expectations in their base,” thus raising the pressure politicians are under now to deliver on those promises, he said. Casey emphasized now is not the time to push the issues, and it “can’t prevail.”

The effects of a shutdown would be far-reaching. Williamsport Municipal Airport Authority Chairman Mark Murawski said while there won’t be any immediate effects on the airport’s operations, including the tower, if a shutdown would drag on for weeks, the control tower could be affected as 80 percent of its funding is federal.

The Senate also passed the Military Pay Protection Act, which U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville, co-sponsored. It ensures that members of the military, as well as defense department civilians and contractors who support them, will be paid in the event of a government shutdown.

Toomey said he voted for legislation that would’ve kept the government running after midnight, delayed the health care law, and repealed the medical device tax. However, “Sen. Harry Reid rejected this compromise offer and voted to shut down the government instead,” Toomey said.

Here’s a look at what could happen statewide with a government shutdown, according to the Democratic Policy and Communications Center:

It could delay financial support for Pennsylvania’s small businesses as it would stop the Small Business Administration’s loan program. In fiscal year 2012, it supported 571,383 jobs in the state.

Social Security checks for seniors still would go out, but new applications would be delayed.

It could force Head Start centers around the nation to close.

U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, R-Cogan Station, could not be reached for comment for this story by press time.