Shutdown looms as House GOP seeks one-year ObamaCare delay
By Russell Berman and Molly K. Hooper - 09/28/13 12:46 PM ET
House Republicans plan to attach a one-year delay of ObamaCare and a repeal of its medical device to a stopgap spending bill on Saturday, a move that could ensure much of the federal government shuts down on Tuesday.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) outlined the maneuver to Republicans in a closed-door conference meeting on Saturday; members could be heard cheering outside the room in a Capitol basement.
Republican lawmakers inside the meeting chanted, "Vote! Vote! Vote!" after hearing the plan, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said.
Republicans exiting the meeting applauded Boehner's decision and said the ball was in Senate Democrats' court.
"When people understand what the House of Representatives is doing, in that we are willing to fund 99 percent of the federal government that all parties agree of funding, then the American people are going to see that we're not the obstructionists — the Senate is," said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.).
The Republican bill is expected to pass. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) asked his GOP colleagues who planned to vote for it, and every hand went up, according to a Republican lawmaker who was in the room. As a result, McCarthy will not whip the measure, the legislator added.
The House bill would change the expiration date on the spending bill to Dec. 15 from Nov. 15 in the Senate measure.
In a statement, Boehner and his deputies said, "The American people don't want a government shut down and they don't want ObamaCare...We will do our job and send this bill over, and then it's up to the Senate to pass it and stop a government shutdown.
Leaving the meeting, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), a Tea Party favorite, was all smiles.
"This is exactly what we hoped for so we're all getting behind leadership," she said. "We're excited [and] we're united."
Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), who has bucked his leaders on many occasions, said the Republican proposal "sounds very reasonable."
President Obama and Senate Democrats have vowed to reject any bill that delays or defunds the president's signature healthcare law. The Senate approved a short-term continuing resolution on Friday and has left Washington for the weekend. Because of Senate rules, all senators would have to consent to expedited votes before the Monday midnight deadline to avert a shutdown.
Senate Majority Leader Harry (D-Nev.) said Friday that unless Boehner passed the funding bill that passed the upper chamber, the government would shutter.
There are no scheduled meetings between congressional leaders and the president, who was golfing Saturday afternoon.
Many Republicans rejected the notion that the Senate doesn't have enough time to act.
"They have plenty of time," Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said. "The Senate, when it wants to, can respond extremetly fast."
Although polls indicate that most voters would blame Republicans for a shutdown, Lankford said the negative consequences of shuttering the government were not discussed at Saturday's meeting.
Democrats on the House floor mocked Republicans, saying they are simply following the lead of Tea Party Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
House Republicans are reluctant to give Cruz too much credit, arguing that they led the charge on ObamaCare.
"I think we motivated him," Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) said after the meeting. "We stood firm first, and then he did what he did."
Boehner's strategy will make Cruz the face of the shutdown — not House Republicans, a House GOP lawmaker said.
Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the House bill "is a plan to shut down the government."
"I don't mind the Republicans committing political suicide, but they're dragging the country and the economy down with them," Israel said. "I think we have a path to win [control of the House] in November of 2014. I'm just worried about what kind of damage Republicans are going to inflict on the economy between now and then."
Boehner, meanwhile, did not comment as he left Saturday's meeting.
According to the GOP plan, the House will vote on the ObamaCare delay and the repeal of the medical device tax as amendments to the continuing resolution passed by the Senate. The House will also vote on a separate bill providing members of the military to continue receiving their paychecks in the event of a government shutdown.
Under pressure from the right and the left, Boehner appeared in good spirits inside the meeting, Nunes said. “He’s trying to do everything he can to stop the intraparty fighting,” Nunes said of the Speaker.
The medical device tax part of the bill is popular. It has 263 cosponsors, including 38 Democrats. Regardless, most — if not all — Democrats are expected to oppose the House GOP bill.
Boehner’s move is a clear nod to conservatives after his leadership team tried unsuccessfully to get the House Republican conference to shift their fight over the healthcare law to an upcoming battle over the debt ceiling.
During Saturday's meeting. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) thanked GOP leaders. The room filled with laughter because Amash is known as a huge thorn in leadership's side.
Boehner, according to lawmaker sources, responded with a joke: "We might have something wrong with this plan."