Republicans are losing the battle with ultraconservatives over defunding Obamacare — for now.
House GOP leaders decided Wednesday to postpone consideration of their plan to defund Obamacare, which would have called for a Senate vote on defunding the law but also would have stopped short of threatening a government shutdown over the issue.GOP leaders’ original strategy was to approve the rule in committee Wednesday for a full House vote on Thursday. But with a mutiny on their right flank and no help from Democrats, they have now concluded that they lack the votes to pass the plan and have put it off. The new strategy, aides say, is to take more time to build support and bring up the measure next week.
“It’s complicated stuff and Members and staff have had very little time to process it,” said a House Republican leadership aide. “Most people who think through all the moves in the legislative chess game realize this plan is likeliest to yield the best result — but it takes a while to think and talk it through.”
Conservative groups were furious Tuesday when the plan was unveiled and immediately organized against it, demanding that Republicans go the distance and threaten a government shutdown if Democrats don’t blink. FreedomWorks, Club For Growth and Heritage Action vowed to punish lawmakers who support the GOP proposal. Republican leaders, on the other hand, recognize they’d probably be blamed for a shutdown and don’t want to risk it.
“Rather than spend time whipping a plan that will only serve to alienate their constituents, they could easily pass a CR that defunds Obamacare,” Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action, told TPM in response to the GOP’s latest move.
Republican House leaders are in an extraordinarily difficult position. Given sweeping Democratic opposition, they have few votes to spare, and are caught between an all-out assault from conservative groups and their responsibility to keep the government running.
But they remain confident of success.
“This was just announced yesterday and we always anticipated 72 hours would likely not be enough time to work on this complicated plan, especially with the Syria issue unresolved,” said a second GOP leadership aide. “So we’ll take a couple extra days to work on it.”
If the plan eventually crashes, like prior Republican proposals facing conservative opposition, it would empower Democrats to have a greater say over the spending levels in the continuing resolution that will fund the federal government after Sept. 30. That is where failure of this plan could hurt the GOP most.
Democrats were immediately skeptical Tuesday that GOP leaders could get the plan through the chamber. A House Democratic leadership said Wednesday that Democrats would be “very unified” against the plan. “It seems the GOP may have a tough road ahead,” quipped a second Democratic leadership aide.
“Once again, House Republicans are in disarray, unable to govern as a result of division and dysfunction,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD). “Even when promising a continuation of their policy of sequester and another defunding of the Affordable Care Act — gifts to the extreme wing of their party — Republicans lacked sufficient support and were unable to bring their bill to the Floor. Their my-way-or-the-highway strategy continues to fail because they are deeply divided and continue to balk at the prospect of working across the aisle to achieve results.”
This article has been updated.