House GOP may attach Obamacare delay to CR
The House Republican leadership is seriously considering attaching a one-year delay of Obamacare’s individual mandate to the Senate bill to avert a government shutdown, according to senior GOP aides.
If House Republicans decide to go this route, it would all but provoke a government shutdown, since Senate Democrats might not even schedule a vote on a bill that includes that provision, Senate leadership staffers say. Even if the Senate schedules a vote, there might not be time to move the legislation through the slow-moving chamber.Continue Reading
The House Republican leadership is planning its next move as it becomes abundantly clear that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s gambit to defund Obamacare will fall short. The federal government is set to shut down Tuesday unless a new funding bill is enacted, and the Senate might not even send a bill to the House until Sunday — leaving a hot potato on Speaker John Boehner’s lap shortly before a government shutdown. The Senate bill will fund the government through Nov. 15.
Boehner and his leadership team have been preparing options to present to House Republicans when they return on Wednesday from a brief recess. The process, leadership aides say, will be driven by members of the House Republican Conference. Their first closed party meeting is Thursday.
Several different tactics are under discussion within the top levels of House GOP leadership, and the path Republicans choose depends on several factors — chiefly the mood of rank-and-file Republicans when they return to Washington, and when the House gets the continuing resolution back from the Senate.
For example, if there isn’t time to send a funding bill back to the Senate without shutting down the government, House Republicans might simply pass the Senate’s version of the legislation and reserve their attacks on Obamacare for future pieces of legislation like a debt ceiling increase. House Republicans begin their quest to lift the debt limit this week, with a similar delay of the health care law attached. This comes after the House passed a CR completely defunding Obamacare.
“We’ll deal with whatever the Senate passes when they pass it,” said Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman. “There’s no point in speculating before that.”
House Republicans see tremendous upside in attempting to delay the individual mandate. First, they think it is easy to communicate the policy to voters. President Barack Obama has already delayed the employer mandate — the provision in the health care bill that requires businesses with more than 50 employees to provide health care for their workers. House Republicans ask: Why not institute that same delay for individuals?
Delaying the individual mandate also poses a difficult political problem for some House Democrats, especially those from red states. In July, when similar legislation came up in the House, 22 Democrats voted with 229 Republicans to pass the bill. One Republican voted against that bill: Rep. Morgan Griffith of Virginia.
Of course, the political fallout of a shutdown is scary business for House Republicans. Boehner has privately warned his fellow leaders that a government shutdown is perilous for Republicans. Most Americans who disapprove of the health care law think its unwise to shut down the government to stop Obamacare’s implementation.
There are other legislative add-ons under consideration by House GOP leaders, as well. There has been discussion by House Republicans of attaching the so-called conscience clause to the CR — language that would allow employers to ignore a federal requirement that they cover birth control as part of their health insurance packages.
House Republicans are also considering including language that would prevent the federal government from making the employer contribution for the health care of members of Congress and their staff. This would add thousands of dollars to the insurance tab of Capitol Hill staffers and lawmakers. A third option is repealing the medical device tax, a revenue stream businesses loathe but that is off the radar of everyday Americans.
Much is in flux this week, as a divided Washington tries to avert the first government shutdown since 1996.
In a bid to help House Republicans respond to the Democratic Senate, some GOP senators have been discussing accelerating the consideration of the CR so the House has more time to weigh legislative options to keep the government open. This would fly in the face of some conservative senators who want to drag out the process.