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House leaders’ best-laid plans for an orderly kabuki to avert a government shutdown have once again been upended by insurgent conservatives, increasing concern about the potential for a government shutdown less than two weeks from now.
The decision to tie Obamacare funding to must-pass legislation keeping the government open was a turnabout for Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, who had quietly resisted the idea for years.
It’s the latest humbling of a leadership team that has continually struggled to corral its own party. But it’s not clear yet whether it will cost the GOP leverage with Democrats.
Boehner’s decision to craft a bill designed to get 218 Republican votes should unify his party — for a week, at least.
“It gives everyone everything they want: it defunds Obamacare, locks in the sequester savings and it avoids a government shutdown,” one senior GOP aide said of Boehner’s reworked strategy.
But it isn’t a plan with any real expectation of becoming law. The two chambers appear headed to the same place they would have likely ended up anyway, with merely a detour to appease Boehner’s conservative wing — a CR that keeps the government open at Boehner’s $986 billion level through Dec. 15. But getting there will now require a potentially messy set of votes in the Senate and a return trip to the House — which means the brinkmanship could push up against the deadline.
Democratic aides said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will need to find a handful of Republican votes to overcome a filibuster of a CR that doesn’t roll back Obamacare. And while some liberals might want Senate Democrats to attach their preferred, $1.058 trillion spending level and nuke the sequester spending cuts, Democratic aides see the lower level as the far easier political play, lest they get tagged with risking a shutdown themselves.
On the flip side, Republicans in the Senate seem to be split over whether the bill should defund Obamacare or just come in at the lower $967 billion threshold demanded by the sequester.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has repeatedly indicated that the president could accept a short-term stopgap CR, and the administration has not yet demanded a specific funding level. Presumably, the administration and Reid will work in tandem to get a bill through.
A final bill would then come to the House floor, with enormous pressure on both parties to pass it to avoid a shutdown.
Republicans would face pressure from the right over the lack of Obamacare defunding; Democrats would face pressure from liberals upset over the failure to replace the sequester.
And while Boehner and his allies in the House have pointed to the Senate as the next battleground over Obamacare, Republican senators allied with the tea party continue to pressure Boehner.