House To Vote on CR To Defund ACA, Senate Passage Unlikely
On Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that House Republicans have come to an agreement on a continuing resolution proposal that would extend government funding at current levels and defund the Affordable Care Act, the Washington Post reports.
House lawmakers likely will vote on the measure this week, according to Boehner (Kane/O'Keefe, Washington Post, 9/18).
Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) unveiled their latest proposal on Wednesday during a closed door meeting of the House GOP caucus (Newhauser, CQ Roll Call, 9/18).
The new strategy comes after a split among conservative GOP members and House leaders on how best to approach dismantling the ACA. House GOP leaders had favored a short-term spending resolution -- by Cantor -- that would force the Senate to vote on a bill defunding the ACA, while limiting the threat of a government shutdown (Sherman/Bresnahan, Politico, 9/17).
However, conservative Republicans rejected that proposal for not taking a strong enough stance against the ACA, and some coalesced around an alternative measure -- by Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) -- that would delay and defund the ACA's implementation for one year (Cowan/Younglai, Reuters, 9/18).
Details of Compromise Defunding Measure
In addition to defunding the ACA, the new strategy would continue funding the government through Dec. 15 at current levels -- $988 billion (Fuller/Dumain, "218," CQ Roll Call, 9/17).
In the House Rules Committee on Wednesday, Republican Study Committee Chair Steve Scalise (La.) is expected to offer an amendment to Cantor's original legislation that would add the defunding language, The Hill's "Floor Action Blog" reports.
Specifically, the amendment would create a rule that states once it is approved on the House floor, the text from Graves' bill -- which would fully defund the ACA in 2014 -- would be considered as part of the CR. In addition, the rule would "self-execute" the inclusion of language from a bill (HR 807) that would authorize the Treasury Department to pay down all interest on the national debt in the event of a government shutdown (Kasperowicz, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 9/18).
Scalise said that the proposal "reflects the principles we've pushing for. We want to address Obamacare in the CR. We also want to address the debt ceiling. This keeps both of those moving."
The House is expected to vote on the CR as early as Friday and send it to the Senate for consideration, during which time the House plans to vote on another measure that would tie a one year extension of the nation's debt ceiling to one year delay of the ACA's implementation (Newhauser, CQ Roll Call, 9/18).
House, Senate Republicans at Odds Over Strategy
Shortly after House GOP leaders released the new strategy, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) -- who pushed for including the defunding language in the CR -- dismissed any hope of the bill passing in the Senate, calling on House Republicans to "hold their ground," The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/18).
Cruz said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) "will no doubt try to strip the defund language from the continuing resolution, and right now he likely has the votes to do so." He added, "At that point, House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground and continue to listen to the American people" (Lesniewski, CQ HealthBeat, 9/18).
In response, Boehner spokesperson Michael Steel said that the ACA defunding issue was now up to the Senate. He added, "We trust Republicans in the Senate will put up a fight worthy of the challenge that Obamacare poses" ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/18).
Senate Democrats Oppose House CR, Consider Their Own Proposal
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats on Wednesday said they would block any measure that included language to defund the ACA, CQ Roll Call reports (Ota, CQ Roll Call, 9/18).
Reid was among the first to criticize the GOP strategy, saying Republican "anarchists" are tying up funds to keep the government running by insisting on votes about delaying or defunding the ACA. He said, "Bipartisanship is a thing of the past. Now all we do is 'gotcha' legislation" (Washington Post, 9/18).
Other Democrats also criticized the plan. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of (D-Minn.) said, "A group of extremists is threatening to hold our government hostage," while Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the strategy an "insane plan" (Taylor, AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/19). Schumer also vowed to block any effort by House Republicans to bring the ACA defunding issue to the upcoming debate over the national debt ceiling. He said, "We are not defunding Obamacare, and we are not negotiating on the debt ceiling."
A Senate Democratic aide said that party leaders are considering several scenarios for possible CR votes on the Senate floor. According to CQ Roll Call, a key concern is whether some Senate Republicans will join 52 Democrats and two independents to approve a motion to decide the defunding issue.
Democratic leaders also are considering whether they want to increase the funding level in the CR to $1.058 trillion (CQ Roll Call, 9/18).
White House Prepares for Potential Shutdown
Meanwhile, the White House Office of Management and Budget on Wednesday issued a memo to federal departments and agencies warning them to prepare for a partial government shutdown on Oct. 1, the Wall Street Journal reports.
In the memo, OMB Director Sylvia Burwell told agencies that funding for many programs and departments would expire at 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 30 and that "prudent management requires that agencies be prepared for the possibility of a lapse."
In the event of a government shutdown, mandatory programs -- such as Medicare and Medicaid -- would continue to be funded, but hundreds of thousands of "non-essential" federal employees would be sent home without pay (Paletta, Wall Street Journal, 9/18).
Obama Calls on CEOs for Help
During a Business Roundtable on Wednesday, President Obama asked corporate leaders to urge Republicans to abandon plans to use negotiations over federal spending as leverage to dismantle the ACA, the Los Angeles Times' "Politics Now" reports (Hennessey, "Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 9/18).
Obama argued that the economic recovery would be harmed if lawmakers cannot reach a deal to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government running beyond Sept. 30 (Kuhnhenn, AP/Sacramento Bee, 9/18).
Obama also criticized what he called "that faction" of the GOP that is willing to consider shutting down the federal government over the ACA's implementation. He said it is unprecedented "to extort a president" by forcing issues "that have nothing to do with the budget and nothing to do with the [nation's] debt [ceiling]."
Obama added that he is willing to negotiate with Republicans on the budget but that he does not want to set a precedent where "full faith and credit of the United States becomes a bargaining chip to set policy" (Parsons, "Politics Now," Los Angeles Times, 9/18).
Government Shutdown Will Not Halt ACA, Experts Note
In related news, major parts of the ACA -- such as is Medicaid expansion and Medicare changes -- are mandatory spending items that would continue to be implemented in the event of a government shutdown, Politico reports.
Further, most of the rules and infrastructure required for the ACA already are in place, according to Politico. The administration has issued its major regulations, distributed funding to states for setting up the exchanges, prepared the data hub that will transmit subsidy and eligibility information and awarded grants to navigators, who would be able to continue helping people enroll in coverage Oct. 1 (Winfield Cunningham, Politico, 9/18).
Still, shutting down the federal government amid implementing the ACA would create "complete chaos," according to Tim Jost, a professor of law at Washington and Lee University. He said the primary concern is that insurers still would be required to comply with the law's requirements but they would have to comply without the promise of millions of new customers because the law's premium subsidies and individual mandate would no longer be enforced (Ethridge/Attias, CQ Roll Call, 9/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.