WASHINGTON — The Senate is expected to reject decisively a House bill that would delay the full effect of President Obama’s health care law as a condition for keeping the government running past Monday, as Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader, expressed confidence that he had public opinion on his side.
Angering Republicans who lead the House, Mr. Reid kept the Senate shuttered on Sunday, in a calculated move to stall action on the House measure until Monday afternoon, just hours before the government’s spending authority runs out at midnight.
Without a complete capitulation by House Republicans, large sections of the government would close, hundreds of thousands of workers would be furloughed without pay, and millions more would be asked to work for no pay.
Polls show that the public is already deeply unhappy with its leaders in Congress, and the prospect of the first government shutdown in 17 years would be the latest dispiriting development. With a temporary shutdown appearing inevitable without a last-ditch compromise, the battle on Sunday became as much about blaming the other side as searching for a solution.
Video | House Republicans Demand Senate Appear Republican members of the House assembled on the steps of Congress and said the Senate should have opened a special Sunday session ahead of a looming government shutdown. A woman passing by responded.
House Republicans, who insisted that they had passed a compromise over the weekend that would avoid a shutdown if only the Senate would act, blamed Mr. Reid for purposely running out the clock.
“Unlock those doors, I say to Harry Reid,” said Representative Ann Wagner, a Missouri Republican who stood on the steps of the empty Senate on Sunday with a dozen of her House colleagues. “Come out and do your job.”
But Mr. Reid sees little incentive or political advantage in bowing to those demands. He has held his 54-member caucus together so far. And because of support from some Senate Republicans who have called it a mistake for House Republicans to try to force changes to the health care law in an unrelated fight over the budget, Mr. Reid’s hand has been strengthened.
Senator Susan Collins of Maine became the latest Republican to criticize her House colleagues, saying on Sunday that an effort to link the health care amendments to the budget was “a strategy that cannot possibly work.”
Video | A Government Shutdown, by the Numbers A look at the costs, closings and other ramifications of a government shutdown.
Mr. Reid’s plan, which exploits the bypasses and delays available to him in Senate procedure, leaves little time for the House to act before the Tuesday deadline. The Senate on Monday is expected to send back to the House a plain budget bill, stripped of its provisions to delay the full effect of the health care law, repeal a tax on medical devices and allow businesses to opt out of contraception coverage for their employees.
All Mr. Reid needs are 51 Democrats to vote with him — not the usual 60-vote threshold required for most Senate business — and the spending bill will go back to the House in a matter of minutes. Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat, said that he had been canvassing Senate Democrats from Republican states and that the party remained unified.
Senate Democrats plan to emphasize a message that the blame for any shutdown rests squarely with Republicans. “They can decide at that point whether they’ll shut down the government or not,” Mr. Durbin said.
Republicans would then face a difficult choice. Speaker John A. Boehner could risk the ire of his more conservative members and put the Senate bill on the floor for a straight up or down vote, a route that his more moderate members have begun urging him to take.
Harry Reid kept the Senate closed on Sunday.
Stephen Crowley / The New York Times
Representative Charlie Dent, Republican of Pennsylvania, said on Sunday that he was actively courting Republicans and Democrats to get behind a temporary spending bill to avert a shutdown, even if it contained none of the additional measures the House passed over the weekend.
“I’m prepared to vote for a clean resolution tomorrow,” Mr. Dent said. “It’s time to govern. I don’t intend to support a fool’s errand at this point.”
Republican lawmakers said on Sunday that the House leadership had one more card to play, but that it was extremely delicate. They can tell Mr. Reid he must accept a face-saving measure, like the repeal of the tax on medical devices, which many Democrats support, or they will send back a new amendment that would force members of Congress and their staffs, and the White House staff, to buy their medical insurance on the new health law’s insurance exchanges, without any subsidies from the government to offset the cost.
Republicans expressed certainty that for all the discomfort a shutdown would inflict on Capitol Hill, Democrats would not risk it to protect their own benefits.
John A. Boehner called Mr. Reid’s decision “an act of breathtaking arrogance.”
Doug Mills / The New York Times
“The concern is palpable,” said Representative Reid Ribble, Republican of Wisconsin. “It will affect everybody, their staff, their budgets. But the American people feel we’re getting an unfair break.”
The Republican House leadership indicated on Sunday that it was planning to amend whatever the Senate sends back Monday.
“I think the House will get back together in enough time, send another provision not to shut the government down, but to fund it,” said Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority whip. “And it will have a few other options in there for the Senate to look at again.”
Getting to that point would require agreement from a group of conservative Republicans who have often acted in discord with the rest of their conference. And it would require them to drop objections to defunding the health care law or delay the law’s full implementation for a year. People can begin signing up for insurance coverage under the law starting on Tuesday.
Representative Pat Tiberi, an Ohio Republican and close ally of Mr. Boehner, said House Republicans believed that they had already compromised by backing away from their demand that the health care law be defunded. Members of the large bloc of conservatives that often dictate the House agenda said they would not vote for any further government spending unless the health care law was gutted. The speaker talked them back this weekend to a one-year delay.
“Harry Reid likes to excoriate the Tea Party members of our conference for not compromising, when he’s doing the exact same thing,” Mr. Tiberi said.
Mr. Durbin said Mr. Reid’s resolve not to compromise has been helped by the shenanigans in the House, what he views as game-playing in the Senate by hard-liners like Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican, and a sense that now is the time to break the power of Tea Party Republicans.
“This is what he believes,” Mr. Durbin said of Mr. Reid. “He’s sick and tired of the Tea Party caucus.”
Complicating matters further, Mr. Cruz, who thrilled the conservative base last week with a 21-hour verbal assault on the health care law, has been urging House members to hold firm.
There are many Republicans who are convinced that the public would not automatically blame them for a shutdown, and they sought over the weekend to make the case that Mr. Obama and Mr. Reid were slowing the process to score political points. They seized on a pair of images they hoped would resonate with the public: Mr. Obama playing golf on Saturday, and Mr. Reid keeping the Senate dark until Monday.
Mr. Boehner called Mr. Reid’s move “an act of breathtaking arrogance.”
The Capitol was quiet on Sunday. The action was on the morning talk shows, where leaders of both parties pointed fingers, and on the Senate steps, where Republicans gathered to demonstrate their anger at Mr. Reid. Neither Mr. Boehner nor Mr. Reid made any appearances.
With the government hurtling closer to a shutdown, the Republicans’ resolve has seemed only to irritate Mr. Reid more. In terms that are exceedingly antagonistic, Mr. Reid has insulted his Republican colleagues as “anarchists” and “rumps” and has called them the “weird caucus.”
And he has made little secret of the belief that the conservative wing of the House Republican conference has run roughshod over Mr. Boehner.
This month, at a private meeting of all four leaders of the two chambers — Mr. Reid; Mr. Boehner; Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader; and Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader — Mr. Reid tried to make light of the speaker’s difficulties with his more unmanageable members.
He told Mr. Boehner that he would trade two of the Senate’s more volatile members for two of the House’s, according to three people told of the exchange. Mr. Boehner chuckled, but did not entertain the idea for long. “You don’t want mine,” he said.