When asked at a Heritage Foundation event on Thursday what the House strategy would be if the Senate rejects House Republicans' continuing resolution that defunds Obamacare, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, referenced New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "Even Belichick doesn't script the whole game," he said. "We're focused on the vote tomorrow; … what happens down the road, we'll see."
The problem with the sports metaphor—besides the fact that we're talking about the U.S. government, economy, and health care system, not the outcome of a football game—is that unlike the Patriots, House Republicans do know how the other team is going to play. What doesn't seem to be scripted is what the House Republican strategy will be when the Senate inevitably punts the CR back to them.
Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., a main contributor to the House bill, agreed with Jordan's assessment, saying the question involved too many hypotheticals. "In the next 11 days, we're going to stay focused on our objective."
In reality though, the way those 11 days will unfold is largely scripted. We know that the House plans to vote on a bill to continue funding the government but defunding the health care law Friday. The bill is destined for failure in the Senate; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday, "Any bill that defunds Obamacare is dead. Dead." Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, angered many Republicans Wednesday when he admitted he did not have enough votes to pass the defunding bill in the Senate. "Harry Reid will no doubt try to strip the defund language from the continuing resolution, and right now he likely has the votes to do so," he said in a statement. "At that point, House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground, and continue to listen to the American people."
A Senate CR that eliminates the defunding provision would then have to be sent back the House. What remains unclear—and what seems to be unclear to House Republicans as well—is what their next move would be.
Pushed to consider the seemingly inevitable hypothetical, Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, refused to go into specifics. "Speaker [John] Boehner said there are other options," he said. "I'm not going to lay them all out on the table right now."
Conservative members of the House maintain that it is up to Reid and President Obama to make the next play. But with the Senate position clear, and Obama's veto threat already stated, what remains unclear is what the House plans to do next.
With time running out to avoid a government shutdown, House Republicans should really start practicing their two-minute drill.
This article appears in the September 20, 2013, edition of NJ Daily.