Policy

Boehner Wants to Keep Shutdown Focus on Obama, Sequester

Speaker John A. Boehner outlined a strategy for next month's spending fight focused on the sequester spending cuts — and not on defunding Obamacare.

The Ohio Republican told his flock he intends to push a short-term spending bill that would keep the sequester locked in place until President Barack Obama agrees to smarter spending cuts — effectively reiterating what he told reporters before the August recess. Boehner said the plan "keeps the government running," according to someone on the call. That could provoke a shutdown showdown if Obama refuses to go along. Obama agreed to a spending bill at sequester levels in March, but since then the White House has repeatedly issued vague veto threats over spending levels.

It's clear, though, that Boehner thinks spending levels are a battle the GOP can win.

"The president's threat to shut down the government if we implement his sequester is not a defensible position," he said. "The American people won't stand for it, and we're not going to be swayed by it."

While a House GOP aide insisted that no final decisions have been made on defunding Obamacare on the CR, Boehner didn't mention the push by about a third of his conference in a letter earlier Thursday to risk a government shutdown in a push to defund the health law.

Instead, Boehner stuck to his plan to "chip away," at the law, rather than sledgehammer shutdown approach advocated by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and others.

Some of Boehner's remarks were provided to CQ Roll Call by someone on the call:

“The president is desperate to get rid of the sequester ... so desperate that he says he'll shut down the government if Congress follows the law and funds the government at the levels his sequester mandates. The president's threat to shut down the government if we implement his sequester is not a defensible position. The American people won't stand for it, and we're not going to be swayed by it. When we return, our intent is to move quickly on a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that keeps the government running and maintains current sequester spending levels. Our message will remain clear: until the president agrees to better cuts and reforms that help grow the economy and put us on path to a balanced budget, his sequester — the sequester he himself proposed, insisted on, and signed into law — stays in place. ...

“We will also continue to implement the plan to stop Obamacare that I outlined last month.  The delays the administration has been forced to implement in the health care law have given us a golden opportunity to talk about fairness: ‘If big business gets relief from the president's health care law, families and small businesses should, too.’  This message strikes a chord with Americans. When people hear it, it resonates.  The president has already signed seven bills delaying or repealing parts of his health care law. We're going to keep the pressure on the president and Senate to act on the delay bills that passed the House in July with significant bipartisan support.  You may have seen Shelley Moore Capito do this in Saturday's GOP weekly address. We're going to keep holding votes that chip away at the legislative coalition the president is using to force Obamacare on the nation.”