19 Sep Government shutdown moves closer as House sets vote to defund Obamacare
House Republican leaders announced Wednesday morning that they would take a risky double-barreled attack on President Obama’s health-care law, making it the cornerstone fight over government funding due to expire Sept. 30 and the effort to lift the Treasury’s borrowing authority.
Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), flanked by his leadership team, told reporters that the stopgap government funding bill that they will advance Friday would yield to conservative demands of including a rider to block funding for the law commonly known as Obamacare.
In addition, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) laid out his party’s legislative grab bag of requests that will be attached to a bill that would lift the debt ceiling, including a delay of the health law, an overhaul of the tax code and approval of an energy pipeline running from Canada to the gulf coast.
Obama immediately rejected that strategy and, in a meeting with the nation’s top executives, said he would oppose any effort to defund the health-care law or negotiate over the debt limit.
In a meeting with the Business Roundtable, a trade group representing America’s big businesses, Obama warned executives that another fight over government spending and the debt limit could harm businesses and consumers.
“I’m prepared to look at priorities the Republicans think we should be promoting and priorities Republicans think we shouldn’t be promoting,” Obama said. “What I will not do is create a habit, a pattern, whereby the full faith and credit of the United States ends up being a bargaining chip to set policy.”
He added that the attempt to undermine Obamacare is at odds with history.
“We have not seen this in the past,” Obama said. “That a budget is contingent on us eliminating a program that was voted on, passed by both chambers of Congress, ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court, is two weeks from being implemented, and helps 30 million get health-care coverage.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) has said he plans to strip the health-care provisions from the government funding bill and send it back to Boehner with just days left before the Sept. 30 deadline, leaving the speaker the difficult choice of approving a stopgap bill with Democratic votes or shutting down the government.
Moments after Boehner announced his intentions, Reid took to the Senate floor to blast the GOP strategy, saying again that Senate Republican “anarchists” are tying up the upper chamber by insisting on votes about delaying or ending the health-care law.
“Bipartisanship is a thing of the past. Now all we do is gotcha legislation,” Reid said.
Rank-and-file GOP lawmakers emerging from their weekly meeting praised Boehner’s decision, saying it would ensure swift passage of a short-term spending plan and force the Senate to hold an up-or-down vote on a plan to repeal a law that a majority of Americans dislike.
“This is the best plan that I’ve seen so far,” said Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), one of several more conservative members who seemed buoyed by Boehner’s decision to adopt a strategy they have pushed for all summer.
“Leadership has been very receptive to the messages of the members and then making adjustments as necessary,” said Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) who first introduced a plan to defund the health-care law while funding government operations for another fiscal year.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), agreed. “There’s an overwhelming sense of support to be unified going forward,” he said.
During the meeting, Boehner, who has served in the House since 1991, shared details of the continuing resolution, according to a senior aide familiar with his comments. Boehner said he supported the plan but also reminded colleagues who have been elected to office in recent years of what transpired in the 1990s, warning that public opinion of President Bill Clinton soared in the weeks after a government shutdown that was prompted by similar disagreements with a Republican-led Congress over spending.
But Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a key Boehner ally, said the speaker seemed pleased with the new strategy.
“I don’t think there’s much doubt about his passion or his commitment to getting something done, and frankly when we’re at 218, we’re at our strongest. That was the basic message,” Cole said. “We’ve been looking for the formula to get us there, and he thinks he’s found it.”