WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans controlling the House are moving to ship to the Senate a measure that would prevent a government shutdown but cripple the health care law that’s the signature accomplishment of President Barack Obama’s first term.
The top Senate Democrat has pronounced the bill dead and calls the House exercise a “waste of time.” The White House has issued a veto threat.
Even before the House vote expected Friday, lawmakers were looking a couple of moves ahead on the congressional chessboard to a scenario in which the Democratic Senate would remove the “defund Obamacare” provision and kick the funding measure back to the House for a showdown next weekend.
The vote was something House leaders had tried to avoid because it initiates a fight that raises the possibility of a partial shutdown of the government when the fiscal year ends at midnight Sept. 30.
But an earlier plan by GOP leaders like House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, designed to send a straightforward bill to keep the government running through Dec. 15 ran into too much opposition from tea party members who demanded a showdown over the Affordable Care Act, the official name of what Republicans branded Obamacare.
Boehner has sought to reassure the public and financial markets that Republicans have no interest in either a partial government shutdown when the budget year ends or a first-ever default on a broader set of U.S. obligations when the government runs out of borrowing ability by mid- to late October.
“Let me be very clear,” Boehner said. “Republicans have no interest in defaulting on our debt — none.”
GOP leaders want to skirt the shutdown confrontation and seek concessions when addressing the need to raise the debt ceiling next month, but Obama says he won’t be forced into making concessions as he did in the 2011 debt crisis, when he accepted $2.1 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years.
Boehner accused Obama of being ready to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin over Syria but not to engage with Republicans on increasing the nation’s debt limit.
GOP leaders scheduled a meeting with the rank and file to discuss the debt limit measure. Aides said they plan to propose attaching provisions, including a mandate to permit construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, a framework to reform the loophole-cluttered U.S. tax code, limits on medical malpractice lawsuits and higher Medicare premiums for higher-income beneficiaries. Even with the grab bag of GOP chestnuts, some ardent conservatives are likely to balk at voting for any debt limit measure.
Meanwhile, a GOP family feud simmered. Many Republicans in both the House and the Senate see the “defund Obamacare” strategy as futile and faulted architects Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, for whipping up expectations among tea partyers that the fight could be effectively waged.