WASHINGTON -- House Republicans gave up trying to keep the government open as the clock ticked to midnight Monday, opting instead to try to appoint a "conference committee" to come up with a funding measure.
Democrats immediately rejected the move.
"We will not go to conference with a gun to our head," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. He said Tuesday would "be a bad day for government," but a "day of celebration" for the tea party.
The House move, which passed 228 to 199, meant abandoning the back-and-forth that gripped the House and Senate all day as the GOP-led lower chamber insisted on offering government funding bills that chipped away at the Affordable Care Act.
The Senate voted down the last bid shortly before 10 p.m., leaving the House the option of passing a "clean" six-week funding bill just in time to stave off a shutdown.
House GOP leaders decided not to, and shifted tactics, announcing they would take a slower legislative route. Conference committees are appointed when the House and Senate pass different versions of the same legislation, and they do not generally move quickly.
But Republicans insisted they were taking the responsible step, even though it meant grinding all government functions that are deemed non-essential to a halt, such as running parks, issuing visas, and clearing potential gun purchasers, among many other government jobs.
"It’s regular order," a GOP leadership aide told HuffPost. "It means we’re the reasonable, responsible actors trying to keep the process alive as the clock ticks past midnight, despite Washington Democrats refusal –- thus far -- to negotiate."
Another GOP aide said the House would insist on the key points in the last funding bill that the House passed: delaying the Obamacare individual insurance mandate for a year, and stripping federal contributions to the health care plans of lawmakers and staff.
Just passing the resolution to go to conference was likely to go past midnight.
A Democratic aide said the move was essentially a desperate stunt.
"The logic is that by roping they Senate into this, they divide blame and it’s a pox on both houses," changing the message from House Republicans are shutting government down because they’re obsessed with Obamacare, the GOP aide said.
However, there was no sign the Senate would go along. Reid has warned repeatedly that the Senate would not negotiate over funding the government, or the forthcoming need to raise the nation's debt limit.
"It's hard to comprehend," Reid said. "Republicans are still playing games."
A Senate leadership aide said the Senate would table to latest House measure the same way it tabled the previous ones.
Democrats said they would be willing to go to a conference committee over the budget -- which they have been seeking since May -- but not on the short-term continuing resolution both bodies have been fighting over.
This article has been updated to include the Senate vote count and to quote a Senate Democratic leadership aide saying the Senate would table the House request for a conference committee.