Floor votes unlikely on ObamaCare funding, senator says

Legislation funding ObamaCare for 2015 is not likely to come to the Senate floor as a standalone measure open to amendment, the subcommittee chairman in charge of the legislation said Thursday.

The Labor, Health and Human Services bill was supposed to be marked up in the full Appropriations Committee this week, said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), but now it is at the back of the line.

He said because of the difficulty in securing floor time and in getting agreements on amendments with Republicans, it is unlikely to be considered separately on the floor and will end up in an omnibus package. 

“That is likely what will happen,” he said.

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Harkin denied that leaders have taken the bill off the schedule because vulnerable Democrats feared it would provoke "gotcha" amendments hurting their reelection chances in November.

“I will tell you not one senator up for reelection in 2014 has said that to me,” he said.

He said the immediate decision to postpone a markup this week had more to do with the funeral of the father of subcommittee ranking member Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) than anything else.

Moran's office disputed Harkin's account, saying that the funeral played no role in the delay and that Moran had planned to return to Washington for the Thursday vote.

A fight over a continuing resolution funding the implementation of ObamaCare led to a 16-day government shutdown last October, which only ended when Republicans backed down.

A shutdown is not likely this year, but delaying debate on Labor-HHS until after the election would mean delaying a $1.4 billion increase in Health funds to deal with a huge influx in child immigrants. 

The Harkin bill that was marked up in committee — his last, as he is retiring this year — contained $1.9 billion in total to care for illegal child immigrants.

The senator showed obvious frustration with the postponement of his bill and said he still thinks a floor debate on it would showcase Democratic priorities of helping workers and students. 

— This story was updated at 6:31 p.m.