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House Republican leaders are now in full flinging-spaghetti-at-the-wall mode as they float ideas for a spending bill that could win over enough of their rank and file to prevent a government shutdown.
Since sending the Senate a short-term continuing resolution and full defunding of the Affordable Care Act, the GOP has leaked an array of ideas, from a one-year delay of the health care law as part of an amended stopgap bill to ending health subsidies for lawmakers and staff to, most recently, as reported by the conservative National Review, a one-week stopgap measure to buy time.
But at this point, the differences between Republicans in both chambers are almost as numerous as the potential solutions being proposed and the outcomes they would achieve. Aides in both parties and chambers concede that once the Senate sends a bill to the House, the House will send something else back. The billion-dollar questions now are when that all happens and what that next House GOP product looks like.
“We’re just talking about a few weeks of keeping the government open while we decide the bigger issues,” said Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash. “This is not the big kahuna. This is just how we manage ourselves, and they decided to make this big temper tantrum about that.”
The Senate on Wednesday voted 100-0 to open debate on the three-month House CR bill, following a 21-hour, 19-minute pseudo-filibuster from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Senate aides said they believe the Senate will send a bill — likely a CR through Nov. 15 that Democrats are advocating — to the House earlier than scheduled, with Cruz dropping his insistence that Republicans use their full procedural clock to Sunday. Cruz faced intense pressure from his colleagues after he was widely outnumbered in multiple fractious caucus meetings Tuesday. According to multiple sources, the Texas Republican insisted that he would object to any time agreement to expedite debate.
The majority of Republicans believed this would jeopardize the House GOP’s ability to finish a bill before Monday night and would leave the party largely to blame for a politically catastrophic shutdown.
While the Senate voted, House GOP leaders mulled whether to tie a one-year delay of Obamacare’s individual mandate to the continuing resolution, after already having considered attaching such a measure to the debt limit bill.
But Senate Democrats seem likely to reject that gambit — and the White House has threatened a veto to boot. Democrats are also reluctant to move a one-week stopgap measure if House Republicans cannot present a viable endgame, fearing that all a maneuver like that would do is delay by a week the same uncertainty lawmakers face now.