House Conservatives Cool on GOP Spending Plan
Rank-and-File Say Leaders' Proposal Won't Advance Bid to Kill Health-Care Law
A push by conservative House Republicans to cut funding for President Barack Obama's signature health-care law is complicating efforts to keeping the government running when the new fiscal year starts on Oct. 1.
House GOP leaders on Tuesday proposed a plan to fund the government through mid-December while forcing the Senate to vote on cutting funds for the 2010 Affordable Care Act. But conservatives unhappy with the health-care law have reacted with skepticism, saying that while it may compel the Senate, controlled by Democrats, to vote on health-care cuts, it won't lead to the dismantling of the program.
The plan, presented to rank-and-file Republicans less than three weeks before current government funding expires, would work like this: Once the House approves the bill, it would be sent to the Senate in two pieces—with the health-care component arriving first. Once the Senate votes on that part, the broader funding component would be presented.
"This complex legislative gimmick will not stop the coming train wreck that is Obamacare, and I will refuse to vote for any spending bill…that does not fully defund Obamacare," said Rep. Paul Broun (R., Ga.).
The stop-gap legislation would keep the government funded at levels set by automatic spending cuts known as the sequester, which kicked in earlier this year. Sometime this fall, Congress needs to separately consider raising the government's borrowing limit, which Republicans may also try to tie to undoing the health-care law.
Senate Democrats favor higher spending than is included in the House proposal, but leadership aides said the chamber would likely approve the plan after killing the health-care cuts. The White House is also likely to accept the plan as long as spending levels are set across the board and don't favor increases in defense.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, speaking after a closed-door meeting with fellow Republicans, said the goal was to stop the health-care law and not to shut down the federal government. "I believe that the strategy that was outlined to the members this morning accomplishes that," he said.
Several Republicans, including Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, who heads an influential conservative group in the House, said they hoped the proposal would change before it comes up for a vote, likely on Thursday.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said House Democrats would likely oppose the plan because of the health-care cuts and lower funding levels than they support. That means Republicans can afford few defections if they are to get the 217 votes needed to pass the bill.
Negotiations to boost the nation's $16.7 trillion borrowing limit could come by mid-October. No final decision has been made about what demands Republicans might make, but a GOP leadership aide said options include asking for a one-year delay in requiring individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a fine. Other possible demands include pressing for administration approval of the contested Keystone XL pipeline or changes to large entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats have said they won't negotiate on the debt ceiling, saying the Treasury needs to be able to borrow to pay for spending already allocated by Congress.
Georgia Rep. Tom Graves is among those who oppose his party's plan, and he rejected the idea of waiting for the debt-ceiling talks to demand changes to the health-care law. "Now is the time to have that fight," he said.