House GOP leaders are considering whether to tie a one-year delay of Obamacare's individual mandate to the continuing resolution.
It's one of many options that could be used as a bargaining chip to avert a government shutdown on Sept. 30, according to multiple sources. However, if Senate Democrats reject the bargain, as they are likely to do, the gambit could actually make it more difficult to meet the deadline for keeping the government open.
The Senate is currently considering the House-passed stop-gap spending bill and it's likely that Democrats will succeed this week in scrubbing the measure of the defund Obamacare language.
House Republicans put that language in the CR in order to secure votes from the far-right wing of their conference. Should it come back to the House without Obamacare defunding language, Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and his lieutenants will be forced to come up with a new plan to push the bill over the chamber's finish line.
A one-year delay of the individual mandate could work as far as House passage is concerned. While some of the more conservative GOP lawmakers might scoff at a watered-down proposal, others may be inclined to support it as part of the broader goal to end Obamacare once and for all.
Some House Democrats might support it, particularly those who opposed the health law in 2009 and 2010.
With the Senate likely to reject any language targeting the health care law, House Republicans could pursue another option: negotiate with Democrats.
Many House Democrats think the CR spending level of $986 billion is too low and that it should replace the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester. If Boehner decides that securing Democratic votes is the only way to avert a shutdown for which the GOP might be blamed, he might have to agree to some changes to that level that could, in turn, alienate his own Republican base.
Should Boehner and his allies forge ahead with a plan to delay the individual mandate implementation, it could be a blessing for Democrats, who are still weighing among themselves the pros and cons of withholding necessary votes from a policy rider-free CR.
Many House Democrats will get significant cover to vote "no" should it be on the basis of another Obamacare delay provision; voting against a "clean" bill that the Senate has endorsed could leave those Democrats vulnerable to criticism that they were the ones responsible for a shutdown.