US House votes to fund government, delay Obamacare

The US House of Representatives remains fully lit during a rare late-night Saturday session at the US Capitol in Washington, Sept 28, 2013. The House of Representatives approved a controversial Republican measure early Sunday that avoids a looming US
The US House of Representatives remains fully lit during a rare late-night Saturday session at the US Capitol in Washington, Sept 28, 2013. The House of Representatives approved a controversial Republican measure early Sunday that avoids a looming US government shutdown but delays President Barack Obama's health care law for one year. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The House of Representatives approved a controversial Republican measure early Sunday that avoids a looming US government shutdown but delays President Barack Obama's health care law for one year.

The bill assures a stalemate with the Senate, whose Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would not pass legislation that defunded or delayed so-called "Obamacare," and brings the federal government dramatically closer to its first shutdown in 17 years.

The White House also insisted the president would veto the bill if it reaches his desk.

A divided House held hours of raucous debate during a rare Saturday session, when lawmakers often pointed blame at one another for a likely shutdown.

The measure, which now heads back to the Senate, is comprised of two amendments: a one-year delay of Obamacare's implementation, notably the "individual mandate" requiring US residents to have health insurance by January 1 or pay a fine; and repeal of a medical device tax.

It also funds government at current levels until Dec 15, giving lawmakers time to thrash out a broader budget agreement.

The House action comes less than 48 before the end of the fiscal year on Monday night, after which federal agencies will shut their doors if no funding is in place.

House Speaker John Boehner inserted the controversial text after being pressured by the party's die-hard conservatives to use the stopgap spending measure to assail Obamacare.

Republican congressman Scott Rigell encapsulated the dilemma facing the two chambers of Congress as the shutdown looms.

"House and Senate like two locomotives barreling toward one another ... in slow motion," he posted on Twitter.

Earlier Saturday, Reid dismissed Boehner's gambit as a "pointless" maneuver that would only lead to shutdown.

"After weeks of futile political games from Republicans, we are still at square one," he said in a statement.

The House also passed a measure that would fund US military personnel in the event of a government work stop.

The bill passed unanimously, but Democrats noted that Republicans' bringing the bill to a vote only proved that they were expected a government shutdown.