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US Senate rejects House budget, hours to shutdown

BUDGET BATTLEGROUND. Night falls on the US Capitol on the eve of a potential government shutdown, on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, USA, 30 September 2013. EPA/Michael Reynolds

BUDGET BATTLEGROUND. Night falls on the US Capitol on the eve of a potential government shutdown, on Capitol Hill in Washington DC, USA, 30 September 2013.

EPA/Michael Reynolds

WASHINGTON DC, USA (2nd UPDATE) – The US Senate late Monday, September 30, killed the newest House measure to delay President Barack Obama's health care law as part of a federal funding bill, driving government to the brink of shutdown.

With two hours before a midnight deadline, Congress is in the thick of a bitter impasse over federal spending, which runs out with the new fiscal year Tuesday, October 1, unless a stopgap budget is approved.

President Barack Obama and Democrats want Congress to pass a "clean" budget, with no political or ideology-driven providers attached, while Republicans are intent on trying to unravel so-called "Obamacare," the president's signature domestic legislative achievement.

If they fail to reach a deal, a shutdown ensues, forcing hundreds of thousands of federal employees to stay home and more than a million others to work without pay, and potentially giving a hammer blow to a slowly recovering US economy.

The Senate's vote, along strict party lines, was concluded a swift 55 minutes after the House approved its measure.

It was the latest in a series of ping pong votes that were doomed to fail in a bitterly divided Congress.

The House passed three stopgap budgets within 48 hours, each seeking to defund or delay the health care law, and the Senate rejected them all.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's frustration at the exercise showed on the floor.

"Tonight, we have more proof that House Republicans have lost their minds," he said after the latest House vote.

"Instead of allowing all 435 members of the House of Representatives to vote on the Senate's bill to keep the government open for business, Speaker (John) Boehner is once again pushing a government shutdown."

With sand rapidly slipping through the hourglass, there was little sense on Capitol Hill that a last-gasp agreement was in the works.

Asked if the House might relent before midnight and pass a clean budget measure with no provisions, a Republican House aide told Agence France-Presse: "not gonna happen." – Rappler.com