House GOP Embraces Shutdown Threat Over Obamacare

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House Republican leaders said on Wednesday they will move forward with a plan to defund Obamacare in a three-month continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown.

“We’re going to continue to do everything we can to repeal the president’s failed health care law,” Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters after a weekly conference meeting. “This week, the House will pass a CR that locks the sequester savings in, and defunds Obamacare. … We have a plan that we’re happy with,” We’re going forward.”

The GOP’s aim is to pass the stopgap legislation out of the House by the end of this week. If and when the Senate rejects it, the backup plan is to pass a “clean” continuing resolution.“I’ve not watched our conference be so united as we walk into this battle,” said House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

The move augments the risk of a government shutdown on Oct. 1 as Senate Democrats and the White House have categorically vowed to reject any provisions to defund the health care law. Conservative advocates aren’t likely to back off their demands that Republicans hold firm and refuse to fund Obamacare in a continuing resolution.

“We’re now waiting to see what the House of Representatives is going to do — how absurd it is going to be what they’re going to send us,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said Wednesday. “We know it’s going to be something really strange and weird because the Speaker has to do everything that he can to try to mold a piece of legislation that will meet the needs of the tea party, the anarchists — and I say that without any equivocation.”

This wasn’t the route House GOP leaders wanted to take. Conscious that their party is likely to be blamed for a shutdown, their original plan would have locked in low spending levels while avoiding the shutdown confrontation over Obamacare that is now inevitable.

But leaders backed down and gave in to the conservative uprising. Part of the new strategy is to hand the fight to their colleagues in the upper chamber and prove to ultraconservatives like Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) that they’re on a fool’s errand.

“There should be no conversation about shutting the government shutdown,” Boehner said. “That’s not the goal here.”

Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said House Republicans will propose a plan in the next week to delay Obamacare while lifting the country’s borrowing limit. GOP leaders are eying other goodies to bring conservatives on board, such as approving the Keystone XL pipeline.

President Barack Obama reiterated moments later he won’t negotiate on raising the debt limit.

“What I will not do is to create a habit, a pattern, where by the full faith and credit of the United States ends up being a bargaining chip to set policy,” he said at the Business Roundtable Headquarters in Washington, DC. “It’s irresponsible.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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