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 Ann MikulskiHarris invites every female senator to dinner next week Will the real Lee Hamiltons and Olympia Snowes please stand up? Bottom line 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 Mason ReidWhite House seeks to shield Biden from GOP attacks on crime issue Lobbying world Warner backing 'small carve-out' on filibuster for voting rights 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 DurbinDick DurbinBiden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report GOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate Democrats ramp up pressure for infrastructure deal amid time crunch 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 BoehnerGOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger Freedom Caucus presses McCarthy to force vote to oust Pelosi Stripping opportunity from DC's children 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 CruzGOP, Democrats battle over masks in House, Senate Human rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action Only two people cited by TSA for mask violations have agreed to pay fine MORE (R-Texas) said Reid would deserve the blame if the government shuts down Tuesday.