Maneuver on CR May Not Pacify Obamacare Critics

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Eric Cantor
National Journal
Billy House
Sept. 9, 2013, 5:30 p.m.

House Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers plan to pro­ceed with a vote Thursday on a stop­gap spend­ing bill to keep the gov­ern­ment op­er­at­ing bey­ond Sept. 30, and they plan to in­clude a rare pro­ced­ur­al man­euver to force the Sen­ate to vote on de­fund­ing Pres­id­ent Obama’s health care law.

The strategy be­ing put for­ward by Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor, R-Va., is in­ten­ded to sat­is­fy con­ser­vat­ives who want to de­rail the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act. Some have called for Re­pub­lic­ans to use their ma­jor­ity in the House to block spend­ing bills, in­clud­ing so-called con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tions, as lever­age even if that might lead to a gov­ern­ment shut­down.

Eighty-five House Re­pub­lic­ans have signed a let­ter cir­cu­lated by Rep. Mark Mead­ows, R-N.C., that calls for Can­tor and Speak­er John Boehner to “af­firm­at­ively de­fund the im­ple­ment­a­tion and en­force­ment of Obama­care” in any ap­pro­pri­ations bills. Oth­er con­ser­vat­ives, such as Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, have been mak­ing sim­il­ar de­mands.

But it does not ap­pear likely that all of the con­ser­vat­ives will be sat­is­fied by Can­tor’s strategy — which would not ac­tu­ally force law­makers in­to a stark choice of either de­fund­ing the health care over­haul or shut­ting down gov­ern­ment.

Rep. Tim Huel­skamp, R-Kan., who signed Mead­ows’s let­ter, pre­dicted Monday that there would be at least 20 votes against the rule to al­low the House to pro­ceed with such a strategy for the con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion. He also said it il­lus­trates that, for some in the House GOP ranks, “you really aren’t op­posed to Obama­care; you just want to say you are.”

Pas­sage of a CR to keep the gov­ern­ment fun­ded is among the key is­sues that law­makers need to ac­com­plish this month, be­cause the House and Sen­ate have not yet agreed on an­nu­al spend­ing bills for the new fisc­al year, which be­gins Oct. 1. House Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee Chair­man Har­old Ro­gers, R-Ky., said Monday that he hopes and ex­pects the stop­gap spend­ing bill to be brought to the floor for a vote Thursday. He said it would keep gov­ern­ment run­ning through mid-Decem­ber, giv­ing law­makers more time to ne­go­ti­ate a longer-term spend­ing pack­age.

House GOP aides say top lead­ers also want to make sure gov­ern­ment spend­ing is kept at cur­rent levels — levels that in­clude so-called se­quest­ra­tion cuts to agency budgets.

The Demo­crat­ic-led Sen­ate Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee has been writ­ing up that cham­ber’s spend­ing bills to a topline level of $1,058 tril­lion for the new fisc­al year, on the as­sump­tion that Con­gress will re­peal se­quest­ra­tion. But the GOP-led House’s CR fund­ing would be set at a post-se­quester an­nu­al level of $988 bil­lion.

The plan for the CR is to be form­ally an­nounced to mem­bers at the House Re­pub­lic­an Con­fer­ence meet­ing Tues­day.

It calls for the House to sim­ul­tan­eously vote on both the con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion for gov­ern­ment spend­ing and a con­cur­rent res­ol­u­tion that would amend the spend­ing bill to in­clude lan­guage on de­fund­ing the health care law. If both pass, the House would then send the de­fund­ing lan­guage to the Sen­ate, ac­cord­ing to a lead­er­ship aide who is fa­mil­i­ar with the plan. The rule for the pack­age would re­quire that the con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion it­self can­not be trans­mit­ted to the Sen­ate un­til the up­per cham­ber has con­sidered the de­fund­ing lan­guage.

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