Sense of surreal as Senate makes quick work of stopgap (Video)

A sense of the absurd spread on the Senate floor as lawmakers voted a second time within hours to reject a House-passed funding stopgap shortly before a midnight deadline to avoid a government shutdown.

Senators defeated the House proposal along party lines, 54-46. There were no defections. The measure would have delayed the individual mandate, a core piece of the Affordable Care Act, and prevented congressional lawmakers and staff from receiving federal subsidies when they enter healthcare exchanges.

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The situation appeared surreal to lawmakers as the clock ticked toward midnight, and there appeared no evidence of progress or even negotiations between the two sides.

“Three and a half hours essentially until the government begins to shut down. Can you believe this?” asked Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiClinton: White House slow-walking Russia sanctions Top Lobbyists 2017: Hired Guns Gore wishes Mikulski a happy birthday at 'Inconvenient Sequel' premiere MORE (D-Md.), the chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “We are the United States of America. We are a superpower. We’re supposed to be a nation governed by rule of law, and we’re about to shut down.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidVirginia was a wave election, but without real change, the tide will turn again Top Lobbyists 2017: Grass roots Boehner confronted Reid after criticism from Senate floor MORE (D-Nev.) invoked Albert Einstein's definition of insanity as performing the same action repeatedly and expecting a different result.

He panned the House-passed legislation for increasing the out-of-pocket healthcare costs of lawmakers and staffers.

“This time the House has attached a poison pill that would punish 16,000 congressional staff,” he said.

Senate Democrats left little doubt before the vote that they would strike the amendments attached to a stopgap bill funding government through Dec. 15.

Reid declared earlier in the day that Senate Democrats would not accept any changes to ObamaCare. He said they would not even negotiate oven the landmark law until after Congress raises the debt ceiling, which is due to expire Oct. 17.

“We are not going to mess around with ObamaCare, no matter what they do,” Reid said.

“They should get a life,” he said of House conservatives. “It is the law, declared constitutional. The exchanges are coming on board tomorrow.”

Democrats voted in unison against delaying the individual mandate after nine House Democrats defected from their leadership earlier in the evening to postpone the controversial penalty.

The new law’s open-enrollment period begins Oct. 1.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinQuestions loom over Franken ethics probe GOP defends Trump judicial nominee with no trial experience Democrats scramble to contain Franken fallout  MORE (D-Ill.) said Republicans are desperate to stop the law before Tuesday to prevent people from learning more about the law’s benefits.

“That’s why Republicans want to stop ObamaCare. They don’t want these exchanges to be announced. They don’t want people to see these options. They know what’s going to happen,” he said.

Senate Democratic leaders renewed their call on Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerTrump's pick for Federal Reserve chief is right choice at right time The two-party system is dying — let’s put it out of its misery One year later, neither party can get past last year's election MORE (R-Ohio) to put the Senate-passed stopgap up for a vote on the House floor.

“If they call it for a vote, it will pass. They know it.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTexas Republicans slam White House over disaster relief request Dem rep: Trump disaster aid request is 'how you let America down again' Moore endorsements disappear from campaign website MORE (R-Texas) said Reid would deserve the blame if the government shuts down Tuesday.