With just three days left before the fiscal year ends, House Republicans have settled on a plan that would shut down the government over Obamacare.
After a closed-door conference meeting Saturday, GOP leaders announced a new continuing resolution to keep the government funded through Dec. 15 while delaying Obamacare for a year, repealing the law’s medical device tax and ensuring that U.S. troops get paid in the event of a shutdown.
“The American people don’t want a government shut down and they don’t want Obamacare,” said Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and his leadership team in a joint statement. “We will do our job and send this bill over, and then it’s up to the Senate to pass it and stop a government shutdown.”
The move dramatically raises the prospects of a shutdown — the first since 1996. It sets up a staring contest with the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has categorically rejected any provisions that delay, defund or chip away at the Affordable Care Act.
“To be absolutely clear, we are going to accept nothing that relates to Obamacare,” Reid told reporters on Friday, after the Senate passed a “clean” stopgap bill to keep the government funded through Nov. 15.
Anxieties were rising on Capitol Hill with deep divisions (both within the GOP and between the two parties) just days before many federal services were set to close their doors. But in their private meeting, House Republicans agreed to unite on the goal that binds them together: wanting to unravel and defeat Obamacare.
“The whole room: ‘Let’s vote!'” Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) told reporters, according to MSNBC. “I said, like 9/11, ‘let’s roll!'” (The congressman was referring to the last words of a passenger aboard a flight that was hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001 and crashed in Pennsylvania.)
The Senate is not scheduled to be in session until Monday afternoon. The White House has repeatedly said Obama will veto any legislation that delays or defunds Obamacare.
House Republicans passed a “rule” Saturday afternoon to waive the standing rules and let them bring up the continuing resolution for a vote on the same day it was unveiled.
The decision comes amidst a civil war within the GOP over how far to go in trying to destroy Obamacare. It shows that GOP leaders have come up empty after trying every trick in the book to talk their members back from the brink of shutting down the government over President Barack Obama’s health care law. Veteran Republicans recognize that their party is likely to be blamed in the event of a shutdown, even warning that it could cost them the majority in the House, if not damage their standing in the Senate.
“Shutting down the government to get your way over an unrelated piece of legislation is the political equivalent of throwing a temper tantrum. It is just not helpful,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), a deputy majority whip and Boehner ally, back in July. “And I think it is the sort of thing that could create a backlash that could cost the Republicans the majority in the House, which is after all the last line of defense against the president, and could materially undercut the ability of the Republicans in the Senate to capture the majority in 2014, which I think they have a decent chance to do.”
It’s a sign that the right flank’s quixotic push to defund Obamacare, which senior Republicans have said for months is unachievable, has fully taken over the GOP, at least in the House. The effort has been led by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT) and conservative activist groups like Club For Growth, Heritage Action and FreedomWorks.
Cruz has been egging on conservative lawmakers to defy GOP leaders in order to keep up the fight to destroy Obamacare. He may have lost the the battle in the Senate, where the Democratic majority out-maneuvered Republicans, but he’s winning the war for control of the party, even at the risk of damaging its political prospects.
“By pandering to the Tea Party minority and trying to delay the benefits of health care reform for millions of seniors and families, House Republicans are now actively pushing for a completely unnecessary government shutdown,” said Sen. Patty Murray (WA), a member of the Democratic leadership. “I urge Republicans in the House to stop playing political games and pass the Senate’s short-term shutdown-prevention bill so the families and communities we represent don’t end up paying the price.”