Obamacare Recedes as GOP Attention Turns to Entitlements, Tax Code

The certainty of the government shutdown lasting into a second week became unavoidably clear today, along with the solidifying probability that the impasse will only be ended as part of a debt-ceiling resolution.

What’s also apparent is a fast-fading Republican interest in undermining Obamacare as a condition for either revived spending or additional borrowing. Instead, the GOP is talking more and more about securing entitlement curbs and a commitment to a tax code overhaul.

The only overt movement in the standoff this morning, however, was an especially tart exchange between the top congressional press secretaries for each party.

Speaker John A. Boehner has signaled he’s all-but insisting on combining the spending and debt debates, not only in hopes of maximizing GOP leverage against President Barack Obama but also in the expectation that he stands a better chance at rallying his caucus behind one big, if politically complicated, fiscal deal rather than two. The president has been emphatic in saying he won't cut a budget deal of any kind as a condition for either raising debt limit or ending the shutdown.

Boehner made clear this morning that he won't put a comprehensive but straightforward continuing resolution on the floor that would reopen the government and allow the larger budget debate to take place for the next 10 days. (The Treasury says Oct. 17 is the effective deadline for increasing the government’s borrowing authority above $16.7 trillion without risking a first-ever federal default. Secretary Jacob J. Lew said Sunday that lawmakers would be  “playing with fire” by ignoring that deadline.)

In addition to ruling out legislation to raise the debt limit without budget concessions from Obama, the speaker declared Sunday that “there are not the votes in the House to pass a clean C.R.,” which the Democrats quickly challenged him to prove by putting such a stopgap spending measure to a vote. The written pledge of 195 Democrats and the announced support from 22 Republicans (total 217, or the number currently needed to pass a bill in the House) would appear to refute the speaker’s assertion.

“There is now a consistent pattern of Speaker Boehner saying things that fly in the face of the facts or stand at odds with his past actions,” said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “Americans across the country are suffering because Speaker Boehner refuses to come to grips with reality.”

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel fired back that it was “time for Senate Democrats to stow their faux outrage and deal with the problems at hand.”

House members are expected back this evening, after 36 hours away, but only to pass legislation that would fully reopen the Food and Drug Administration. The Senate, which had no votes over the weekend, is going to fill a pair of judicial vacancies in Illinois this afternoon.