Shutdown odds spike as GOP unveils new funding bill
House Speaker John Boehner arrives for a closed-door meeting of the House Republican caucus Saturday.
By Michael O'Brien, Political Reporter, NBC News
The odds of a government shutdown spiked on Saturday after the House GOP said it would again vote to force concessions on "Obamacare" as a condition of funding government.
House Republicans doubled down on their strategy of seeking to undo Obamacare as part of the battle over funding the government past Monday, scheduling a vote on a stopgap measure that would delay the health care law for a year.
Though President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats have already said they would reject any measure to fund government that touches on the Affordable Care Act, Republicans barreled ahead with a new proposal to fund the government through mid-December, but also delay Obamacare for a year and repeal a politically-unpopular tax on medical devices contained within the law.
"The American people don't want a government shut down and they don't want Obamacare," Boehner and his deputies said in a joint statement. "That's why later today, the House will vote on two amendments to the Senate-passed continuing resolution that will keep the government open and stop as much of the president's health care law as possible."
The Republican leaders added: "We will do our job and send this bill over, and then it's up to the Senate to pass it and stop a government shutdown."
As a way to politically inoculate themselves against the political fallout from a shutdown, Republicans will also pass separate legislation to guarantee military members' pay should a shutdown come to pass.
Still, the gambit significantly increases the odds of a government shutdown at the end of Monday. As the hours dwindle before the government runs out of money, there's little time left for wrangling. The House proposal will be a non-starter in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. But even if the upper chamber wishes to send back another clean extension of government spending, that would take some time.
Saturday's actions by the House represent a lightning-quick turnaround — in legislative terms, at least — after the Senate approved a continuation of government spending at existing levels through Nov. 15.
That followed an extended debate in which the Senate ultimately rejected a complete defunding of Obamacare as part of a quixotic effort led by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who waged a 21-hour talk-a-thon against the health care law. As the debate pivots back to the House, Cruz has urged Republican colleagues to hold the line against Obamacare, increasing the pressure on Boehner to avoid acceding to the Senate-passed bill.
That House Republicans have decided to proceed with yet another effort to undo Obamacare — even despite the steepest odds of succeeding — reflects the extent to which opposing the law has become the central litmus test within the GOP.
If the House succeeds in approving its new proposal on Saturday, it ups the ante on brinksmanship with the Senate, and Obama.
"To be absolutely clear, we are going to accept nothing that relates to Obamacare," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Friday at the Capitol. Democratic aides in the Senate literally underscored that point for reporters in emails preceding the House's deliberations this weekend.
On Friday, Obama said at the White House that Republicans "are so concerned with appeasing the Tea Party that they've threatened a government shutdown or worse unless I gut or repeal the Affordable Care Act."
The president added: "Let me repeat it: That's not going to happen … Those marketplaces will be open for business on Tuesday no matter what — even if there's a government shutdown."
As the debate played out at the Capitol, the president headed out for a round of golf on a temperate afternoon in the nation's capital.
Sunday, August 20 2017 8:43 PM EDT2017-08-21 00:43:03 GMT
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