As the government hurtles toward a probable shutdown at midnight, House Republican leaders huddled with select rank-and-file lawmakers as they began plotting their response to the Senate's expected rejection of the House's attempt to once again delay implementation of Obamacare.
A small number of GOP lawmakers — including Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, Pete Sessions of Texas and Virginia Foxx of North Carolina — trickled out of Speaker John A. Boehner's office om Monday morning and afternoon. The Ohio Republican was meeting with members in advance of a 2 p.m., members-only conference meeting where Republicans are expected to discuss their next move if the Senate, as expected, votes to table the amendments the House adopted to a short-term spending bill to keep the government funded past Tuesday.
Republicans insist they are doing everything they can to avoid a shutdown.
"I think we're in for a long night," said Republican Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma. When he was asked if there would be a shutdown, Lankford said it "sure seems like it right now."
Aides indicated that the House is expected to work late into the night — even early into the morning — to send the Senate yet another proposal that would amend the continuing resolution with some sort of GOP policy priority. Part of the calculus from House leaders seems to be a belief that whichever chamber holds the CR during a shutdown will hold the blame.
Indeed, House Republicans hope to frame any shutdown as a matter of Senate inaction. But once the Senate votes again this afternoon, the onus of action will again fall to the House, so sending something back before daylight Tuesday could serve as political cover.
Some, including No. 4 House Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, spent part of their Sunday on the Senate steps imploring Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to get back to work. Boehner made a rare one-minute speech on the House floor Monday to ask why the Senate wasn't acting with expediency.
"Well my goodness, if there’s such an emergency, where are they?" asked Boehner, in reference to the Senate's plan to reconvene at 2 p.m. Monday.
Early Sunday morning, House Republicans sent yet another volley to the Senate — amending the continuing resolution to delay Obamacare for one year, repeal a medical device tax, add a “conscience clause” that would allow employers and insurers to opt out of providing coverage for contraception if they have moral or religious objections, and change the date of the stopgap spending bill back from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15.
Once the Senate rejects the House's moves, Boehner will face the same dilemma he has faced all along: Make another stand on Obamacare and shut down the government, or keep the lights on and potentially face a revolt within his conference.
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told "Fox News Sunday" that he expected "the House will get back together in enough time, send another provision not to shut the government down but to fund it and it will have a few other options in there for the Senate to look at again."
McCarthy said there are “a lot of items on the table," but some of those options still floating around probably include the medical device tax repeal and an amendment that would prevent members of Congress and their staffs from receiving employer contributions for health care purchased on Obamacare exchanges.
Emma Dumain contributed to this report.