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. 
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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.”


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