August 15, 2022

Here We Go: House to Vote on Temporary Budget That Defunds Obamacare

Conservatives wanted a continuing resolution (CR) that defunds Obamacare, and now they’ll get one (via National Review):

Speaker John Boehner huddled with House Republicans this morning at the Capitol. According to several sources in the closed-door meeting, the speaker confirmed his plan to bring a continuing resolution to the floor that funds the government and defunds Obamacare. “On the CR, we know what the position of this conference is,” Boehner said, speaking before his colleagues. “Every member in this room is for defunding Obamacare while letting the rest of the government continue to operate. We’re going to put Obamacare defunding directly into the CR. And then we’re going to send it over to the Senate, so our conservative allies over there can continue the fight. That’s where the fight is.” “On every major issue we’ve faced for the past two and a half years, the math has been the same: House Republicans either find a way together to get to 218, or the Democrats who run the rest of Washington essentially get everything they want,” he added, pressing for House GOP unity.

Instant reaction reports suggest conservative House members are generally pleased with the new game plan. But what are the real-world implications of this decision? First, House GOP leaders have shelved their initial strategy, offered by Eric Cantor earlier this month, that would have split the CR and defunding mechanism into two separate bills — allowing Harry Reid’s Senate to pass one, and ignore the other. Many conservatives rejected this approach as meaningless gimmickry. Now Boehner will embed the defunding provision directly into the temporary budget, pass it out of the House, and send it over to the Senate. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee & Co. have been champing at the bit for an opportunity to engage this battle on the Senate floor, and they’ll have their chance, presumably with the blessing of Mitch McConnell. Ultimately, though, the chances of Reid, Durbin and Schumer allowing an Obamacare-defunding CR to emerge from their chamber are nil. Nada. Zero. So as the September 30 deadline approaches, Republicans will eventually circle back to the debate over whether to use the threat of government shutdown to apply further pressure on Democrats — who will never cave on this issue. What conservatives are “winning” here is the opportunity to stand on principle and cast more (more or less symbolic) votes against Obamacare in the House while forcing a robust debate in the Senate. That’s better than nothing, I suppose. Why House leadership didn’t embrace this plan sooner is a total mystery. When the shouting stops, though, make no mistake: The White House and Congressional Democrats would be delighted by a shutdown. They would blame Republicans for the dysfunction and “scary” consequences, and they would sooner or later succeed, setting the stage for an inevitable GOP crumble. That’s why Paul Ryan is urging his conservative colleagues in the House to refuse to go down with USS Shutdown, even if they take a stand and make a statement with the new CR:

During this morning’s GOP conference meeting, Ryan made his position clear, according to a source in the room. “We have to stay on the right side of public opinion,” he told his colleagues. “Shutting down the government puts us on the wrong side. The fight is on the debt limit.” Ryan’s allies tell me they expect him to support Boehner’s plan, but he’s also going to work behind the scenes, as an unofficial ambassador for the leadership, to convince House Republicans to move away from a CR fight, should the Senate, as expected, kill the House’s stopgap bill that defunds Obamacare. Ryan reportedly believes the House Republicans can wring concessions out of the Senate and White House on spending and entitlement reform as the debt limit nears, but only if they focus on that battleground.

Okay, but…are Republicans really going to “stand firm” on the debt ceiling fight? Yes, the early polling looks significantly better on this front, but the pressure not to jeopardize the United States government already-downgraded credit rating will be immense. Will the GOP actually prevent a debt ceiling increase? No, nor should they. But they might be able to win some concessions along the way. Here’s a peek at what their ask will be:
Here’s how I roughly expect things to play out: (1) The House passes a temporary budget that defunds Obamacare. The Senate has an intense debate on the subject, but it ultimately goes nowhere, with Reid easily marshaling 60 votes to overcome any potential filibuster attempt. Leadership in the two chambers hammer out an alternative CR that continues funding for Obamacare, but accommodates a handful of Republican goals. The updated version passes the Senate, then Boehner breaks the so-called “Hastert Rule” to move it out of the House. Done deal. (2) On the debt ceiling, Obama — who says he won’t negotiate, and won’t sign anything other than a “clean” hike — caves on both of those positions. He’ll have no choice. Republicans negotiate themselves a few more (relatively minor) concessions, perhaps including tough Senate votes on Obamacare delays. The debt ceiling is increased, in return for some additional spending cuts, one or two welcome (but small-ball) reforms, and without any tax increases. (3) Both parties declare partial victory, then charge toward the 2014 cycle, arguing that the other side is the problem in Washington. Ain’t politics grand? Parting thought, via Allahpundit: Cantor’s debt ceiling demands don’t include any form of entitlement reform? Did he see yesterday’s CBO report on long-term debt?