Boehner Serves Red Meat, and Republicans Eat It Up

The speaker’s plan on funding and delaying Obamacare reflects conservative wishes, but is mostly a play at unity, not policy.

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Republican leaders emerge from a closed-door strategy session at the Capitol, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013. House GOP leaders are looking to reverse course and agree to tea party demands to try to use a vote this week on a must-pass temporary government funding bill to block implementation of President Barack Obama's health care law. Boehner is followed by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. 
National Journal
Tim Alberta
Sept. 18, 2013, 8:34 a.m.

Some of House Speak­er John Boehner’s fiercest con­ser­vat­ive crit­ics emerged from Wed­nes­day morn­ing’s GOP Con­fer­ence meet­ing vis­ibly elated, heap­ing praise on Boehner and his lead­er­ship team for their polit­ic­ally risky pro­pos­al to tem­por­ar­ily fund the gov­ern­ment while per­man­ently de­fund­ing Obama­care.

“I think our lead­er­ship has got it just right,” said Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who dur­ing the pre­vi­ous Con­gress of­ten clashed with Boehner while lead­ing the Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee. Asked wheth­er con­ser­vat­ives are pleased with Boehner’s plan, Jordan replied, “Oh, yeah. Heck, yeah.”

“Everything I heard in there was very pos­it­ive,” said Rep. Mick Mul­vaney of South Car­o­lina, who voted against Boehner in Janu­ary’s lead­er­ship elec­tions.

Ad­ded Rep. Matt Sal­mon of Ari­zona: “I think it’s the best plan I’ve heard in a long time.”

En­thu­si­asm on the Right is seem­ingly jus­ti­fied. The pro­pos­al laid out by Boehner on Wed­nes­day morn­ing gives con­ser­vat­ives al­most ex­actly what they’ve been ask­ing for: A short-term con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion (this one ex­pires Dec. 15); an ex­ten­sion of cur­rent, post-se­quester spend­ing levels ($986.3 bil­lion, to be ex­act); and a prom­ise to per­man­ently re­move fund­ing for the Af­ford­able Care Act (a memo from lead­er­ship says the CR lan­guage will “per­man­ently and fully de­fund Obama­care spend­ing through pro­hib­it­ing dis­cre­tion­ary and man­dat­ory spend­ing and res­cind­ing all un­oblig­ated bal­ances”).

The fund­ing pro­pos­al also in­cor­por­ates the Full Faith and Cred­it Act, which lead­er­ship says would re­quire the Treas­ury De­part­ment “to make good on pub­lic debt pay­ments should Amer­ica reach the debt ceil­ing.” At the same time, it sets the table for a forth­com­ing GOP debt-ceil­ing pro­pos­al—per­haps ar­riv­ing as early as next week—that will tar­get long­time goals, such as en­ti­tle­ment re­forms, the Key­stone Pipeline, and, of course, de­fund­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act.

“This is a vic­tory for the Amer­ic­an people,” said Rep. Tom Graves of Geor­gia, who provided Boehner a blue­print with a bill that would fund the gov­ern­ment for fisc­al 2014 while delay­ing and de­fund­ing Obama­care un­til 2015. Graves, whose meas­ure had at­trac­ted up­wards of 70 con­ser­vat­ive co­spon­sors, said Boehner’s lead­er­ship team “was very re­cept­ive” to his ideas after their plan dis­solved late last week.

Boehner’s de­cision to back a spend­ing bill that de­funds Pres­id­ent Obama’s sig­na­ture do­mest­ic achieve­ment shifts the fo­cus to the Sen­ate, where Demo­crats could be forced to take a vote on the di­vis­ive health care law. “I think this is go­ing to be crit­ic­al to fi­nally force the Sen­ate to vote on a delay of Obama­care,” said Rep. Steve Scal­ise, chair­man of the Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee.

With a Demo­crat­ic ma­jor­ity in the up­per cham­ber, however, and Obama already vow­ing to de­feat any at­tempt to de­fund the health care law, it seems highly un­likely that this House pro­pos­al will ac­com­plish any­thing oth­er than unit­ing con­ser­vat­ives and shift­ing fo­cus to the Sen­ate—all while tak­ing Con­gress one step closer to a gov­ern­ment shut­down.

But in the ruth­less realm of in­tern­al GOP polit­ics, the anti-Obama­care pro­pos­al achieves what Rep. Paul Ry­an of Wis­con­sin called a “uni­fy­ing” pur­pose. Namely, it puts Boehner on the same page with his con­ser­vat­ive mem­bers, some of whom have openly ques­tioned wheth­er the speak­er has the stom­ach for fight­ing over Obama­care with a gov­ern­ment shut­down on the line.

“Today I heard a re­solve in the speak­er’s voice,” said Sal­mon. “Strategies come and go, but we want res­ults. We’ve got a very short win­dow to stop this thing from be­ing im­ple­men­ted. Today I heard in the speak­er’s voice a com­mit­ment—and a plan—to do that. And I’m ex­cited.”

Even mem­bers who have been con­sist­ently crit­ic­al of Boehner’s team—such as Rep. Tim Huel­skamp of Kan­sas—walked away from Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing feel­ing good about lead­er­ship’s plan. “It’s a very good sign; it’s a sign that they’re listen­ing,” he said.

Huel­skamp, who on Tues­day “guar­an­teed” that a Graves-style plan would win 218 Re­pub­lic­an votes on the House floor, stood by that pre­dic­tion Wed­nes­day. “I think so,” he said. “You put it on the floor, I think we all have to vote for it—un­less someone says it doesn’t go far enough, long enough, or deep enough.”

Of course, there are those mem­bers, too. “I can’t sup­port pro­posed CR,” Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan wrote on Twit­ter soon after the sum­mit ad­journed. “It’s a #Stealth­Debt­LimitH­ike; it ex­empts in­terest from debt lim­it, ef­fect­ively rais­ing debt lim­it per­man­ently.”

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4449) }}

What We're Following See More »
Warren Goes After Trump Yet Again
9 hours ago

When it comes to name-calling among America's upper echelon of politicians, there may be perhaps no greater spat than the one currently going on between Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Donald Trump. While receiving an award Tuesday night, she continued a months-long feud with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. Calling him a "small, insecure moneygrubber" who probably doesn't know three things about Dodd-Frank, she said he "will NEVER be president of the United States," according to her prepared remarks."We don't know what Trump pays in taxes because he is the first presidential nominee in 40 years to refuse to disclose his tax returns. Maybe he’s just a lousy businessman who doesn’t want you to find out that he’s worth a lot less money than he claims." It follows a long-line of Warren attacks over Twitter, Facebook and in interviews that Trump is a sexist, racist, narcissistic loser. In reply, Trump has called Warren either "goofy" or "the Indian"—referring to her controversial assertion of her Native American heritage. 

Congress Passes Chemical Regulations Overhaul
11 hours ago

The House on Tuesday voted 403-12 "to pass an overhaul to the nation’s chemical safety standards for the first time in four decades. The Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act aims to answer years of complaints that the Environmental Protection Agency lacks the necessary authority to oversee and control the thousands of chemicals being produced and sold in the United States. It also significantly clamps down on states’ authorities, in an effort to stop a nationwide patchwork of chemical laws that industry says is difficult to deal with."

Kasich Tells His Delegates to Remain Pledged to Him
14 hours ago

Citing the unpredictable nature of this primary season and the possible leverage they could bring at the convention, John Kasich is hanging onto his 161 delegates. "Kasich sent personal letters Monday to Republican officials in the 16 states and the District of Columbia where he won delegates, requesting that they stay bound to him in accordance with party rules."

Sanders Wants a Recount in Kentucky
15 hours ago

Bernie Sanders "signed a letter Tuesday morning requesting a full and complete check and recanvass of the election results in Kentucky ... where he trails Hillary Clinton by less than one-half of 1 percent of the vote. The Sanders campaign said it has asked the Kentucky secretary of state to have election officials review electronic voting machines and absentee ballots from last week's primary in each of the state's 120 counties.

McAuliffe Under Investigation for Fundraising
19 hours ago

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) “is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the FBI and … the Justice Department” for potentially improper contributions to his 2013 campaign, including while he was a Clinton Global Initiative board member. ... Among the McAuliffe donations that drew the interest of the investigators was $120,000 from” former Chinese legislator Wang Wenliang. “U.S. election law prohibits foreign nationals from donating to … elections. … But Wang holds U.S. permanent resident status.”