House Republicans meet to plot next move, as shutdown deadline nears
Published September 28, 2013FoxNews.com
House Republicans begin meeting at noon Saturday to plot their next move in Washington budget negotiations, which if unsuccessful will result in a government shutdown early next week.
The major issue remains whether the divided Republican House will pass simple legislation approve Friday night by the Democrat-led Senate that funds the entire federal government through Nov. 15. Or will members send another temporary spending bill to the upper chamber with no ObamaCare funding, which would most likely result in a stalemate and partial shutdown Monday night.
The House sent its first temporary funding bill, without ObamaCare money, to the Senate earlier this month. But Senate Democrat re-inserted funding for the health care law, despite efforts by Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz -- a conservative, Tea Party-backed lawmaker – to block that effort.
Failure to pass a short-term funding bill by Monday night would mean the first partial government shutdown in almost 20 years.
The Senate's 54-44 vote was strictly along party lines in favor of the bill, which would prevent a shutdown of nonessential government services.
That tally followed a 79-19 vote to cut off a filibuster by Cruz, which exposed a rift among Republicans eager to prevent a shutdown and those, like Cruz, who seem willing to risk one over derailing the health care law.
All 52 Democrats, two independents and 25 of 44 Republicans voted in favor. That included Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and most of the GOP leadership.
Cruz was whipping up House conservatives to continue the battle over heath care, urging them to reject efforts by Speaker John Boehner and other GOP leaders to offer scaled-back assaults on the law like repealing a tax on medical devices as the House response.
Some conservatives were taking their cues from Cruz rather than GOP leaders like Boehner hoping to avoid a shutdown, especially one that could weaken Republicans heading into an even more important battle later in October over allowing the government to borrow more money.
Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, attempted Saturday to move the debate to next budget-battle deadline -- Oct. 17 when Congress must increase the government’s borrowing limit or risk defaulting on its debt.
Republican want spending cuts as part of the deal, but the White House has said it engage in extortion negotiations.
“The president is now demanding that we increase the debt limit without engaging in any kind of bipartisan discussions about addressing our spending problem,” Rodgers said. “By an overwhelming margin, Americans believe the debt-ceiling increase should be coupled with solutions that help solve our debt and grown our economy. … Coupling an increase in the debt limit with efforts to rein in spending makes common sense, so much so that it’s been used from presidents from both parties.
GOP leaders had yet to announce a plan heading into the emergency meeting Saturday. A vote on the as-yet-unwritten measure seemed most likely on Sunday, leaving little time for the Senate to respond on Monday.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., warned that the Senate will not accept any House measure that contains provisions opposed by Democrats. And he knows better than anyone that any single senator could slow down the Senate's ability to return yet another version to the House.
"This is it. Time is gone," Reid said. Republicans "should think very carefully about their next steps. Any bill that continues to play political games will force a government shutdown."
Obama criticized conservative Republicans on Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address, arguing that even many GOP senators and governors were urging their House colleagues to "knock it off."
"Republicans in the House have been more concerned with appeasing an extreme faction of their party than working to pass a budget that creates new jobs or strengthens the middle class," the president said.
Late Friday, more than five dozen conservatives rallied behind an amendment by Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., to delay ObamaCare through the end of next year. That's a nonstarter with the Senate.
If lawmakers miss the deadline, hundreds of thousands of nonessential federal workers would have to stay home on Tuesday, though critical services like patrolling the borders, inspecting meat and controlling air traffic would continue. Social Security benefits would be sent and the Medicare and Medicaid health care programs for the elderly and poor would continue to pay doctors and hospitals.
Also on Tuesday, ObamaCare insurance exchanges would open, a development that's lent urgency to the drive to use a normally routine stopgap spending bill to gut implementation of the health care law.
"I'm more concerned about the impact of this law on the American people than I am about my re-election," said freshman Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C.
But veterans like Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a former head of the House GOP's campaign arm, warned that the political risk of a shutdown is simply too great.
"I think anybody who doesn't think it's high risk is not playing with a full deck," Cole told reporters. "Our numbers ... are getting better. There's every reason to believe the midterms will be favorable. They're playing defense in the Senate. You don't want to disrupt that pattern of events."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.