Government shutdown: House GOP to delay individual mandate
By: Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan
September 30, 2013 10:03 AM EDT
House Republicans are moving toward putting a bill on the floor that would delay the individual mandate and cancel health-insurance subsidies for members of Congress, the president and administration appointees, according to multiple sources.
That bill would be part of a government funding measure to which the Senate would have to agree, which is highly unlikely. Just this afternoon, the Senate rejected the House’s last move this weekend to delay Obamacare and repeal the medical device tax as part of a government funding bill.
The government shuts down at midnight and this move would all but ensure that occurs.
Faced with a politically damaging government shutdown at midnight, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is gauging whether there is enough support to pass a measure to keep the government afloat for one moe week.
If there is enough support, the measure could allow more time for the House and Senate to work out their differences on a longer-term continuing resolution. But winning the support of conservative Republicans who are gunning for the president’s health care law is no sure bet, and senior Democrats threw cold water on the idea.
House Republicans will head into a closed strategy meeting Monday at 2 p.m., 10 hours before the government will run out of money.
The gathering, in the Capitol basement, comes after a full morning of leadership meetings, where Republicans mulled how — and if — they will avoid a government shutdown.
The Senate is expected to reject House-passed legislation that would keep the government open until Dec. 15, but would also delay Obamacare for one year and repeal the medical device tax. The federal government shuts down at midnight if the Senate and House cannot agree on a funding bill. The House is mulling a response when the Senate defeats its government funding bill.
Leadership spent the morning considering their options, chatting about putting together a package that can garner 218 vote — the number of votes needed for the House to pass a bill.
One option is to attach to the Senate government-funding bill a repeal of Medicare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board and the medical device tax, according to sources. Another path is to attach a one-year repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate. Both of these plans would likely lead to a government shutdown.
The House could pass a clean continuing resolution, or CR, with Democratic support — GOP sources Monday morning signaled this option was possible. Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) would be compelled to find roughly 120 Republicans in favor of this approach in order to ensure that the majority of the GOP conference is on board.
One other option includes canceling health-insurance subsidies for some government employees, including members of Congress and their staff. But there’s internal resistance to this measure among House Republicans, mainly because low-paid aides would be forced to pay thousands of dollars more for their health care. Conservatives are unlikely to be satisfied by this language.
House Republican leadership is expected to pose several questions to its membership in the 2 p.m. meeting. They’ll ask the rank-and-file what its goal is, what the House will do if the Senate rejects yet another House bill and, perhaps most importantly, how will Boehner’s chamber end a shutdown?
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he would not accept any changes to health care policy as part of a CR.
Some Republicans and Democrats think a shutdown could help the atmosphere in Congress. It could aid leadership in reasserting its authority over the rank-and-file. Some Republicans think if the government shuts down now, it would ease pressure ahead of the debt ceiling fight.
House Republicans have the procedural ability to introduce legislation and bring it to the floor in the same day – authority that needs to be renewed Tuesday. So if there is some compromise agreement with Senate Democrats and the White House, the House could move quickly to pass it.
Boehner took to the House floor Monday morning, saying the House has “done its work” to fund the government by passing a bill early Sunday morning.
“Senate decided not to work yesterday,” Boehner said. “Well, my goodness. If there is such an emergency, where are they. It’s time for the Senate to listen to the American people, just like the House has listened to the American people, and pass a one-year delay of Obamacare and a permanent repeal of the medical device tax.”
This is just the first fiscal fight of the fall. The debt ceiling must be lifted by Oct. 17, and if House Republicans give up on the government funding fight, increasing the nation’s borrowing limit becomes that much harder.