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Republicans Plot CR Endgame

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
If the continuing resolution comes back to the House without Obamacare defunding language, Boehner and his lieutenants will be forced to come up with a new plan.

“The best way for the House to avoid a shutdown will be to pass the bill we send back,” one Senate Democratic aide said.

A House GOP aide said a one-week CR is unlikely at this point.

The Senate is currently considering the House-passed stopgap spending bill, and it’s likely that Democrats will succeed this week in scrubbing language that would defund Obamacare.

House Republicans put that language in the CR 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.

Leaders had been considering appending that language to their debt limit bill so they could assure members they would continue their fight against the health care law while also avoiding blame for a shutdown, which they have told the rank and file would fall on them. The catch, sources say, is that some House GOP members never will be convinced that President Barack Obama will not ultimately get blamed by their constituents. And many still want more immediate action on the health care law, despite the political reality that the House GOP’s 41 attempts to defund or repeal the law have not done either of those things. One idea pitting political points against their own paychecks would be to attach an amendment by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., blocking health subsidies for members of Congress, their staff and political appointees in the Obamacare exchanges.

And if they can’t find the votes on their own team, 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.

Fiscal conservatives in the Senate already are frustrated that the levels are too high and that Cruz shifted the debate away from spending cuts to rolling back the health care law.

“There’s a big story that hasn’t been told to the thousands and thousands of people from Oklahoma that have called my office. They haven’t been given informed consent. They’ve been sold a bill of goods,” Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., lamented Wednesday about Republicans shirking their responsibility to discuss deficit reduction. “And when I have young interns and young staff in my office taking significant calls from people who’ve been misled, there’s no way you’re going to talk them out of a position that outside interest groups and a very few small number of people inside the Senate have planted.”

House Democrats, meanwhile, are waiting out Republicans’ next move. Another Obamacare delay by House Republicans would make it easy for most of them to vote “no” — 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.

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.

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