House Republicans stall on continuing resolution amid party strife

A bill to keep the government funded through mid-December has been pulled from the House schedule as Republicans wrangle over challenge on Obamacare.

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House Republicans released the details of a continuing resolution to fund the government thorough Dec. 15 at a level slightly below current spending under sequestration. However, the measure was pulled from the House schedule late on Sept. 11 due to disagreements among Republicans over how best to challenge the president on health care reform.

The CR includes a provision to allow the Commerce Department the flexibility to fund the planned launches of the Joint Polar Satellite System and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite system. Delays to these programs could extend an anticipated gap in polar-orbiting weather satellite coverage. The Department of Homeland Security can shift money if necessary to keep Customs and Border Protections staffed at current levels, and the Forest Service gets additional flexibility to pay for wildfire suppression. The Veterans Administration receives additional funds for processing disability claims under the measure.

The current CR funding the government expires Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 2013.

Despite the urgency, passing the measure might not be an easy lift for the House leadership. Faced with pressure from some conservatives to defund the 2010 health care law before open enrollment begins Oct. 1, the leadership has devised a separate resolution to do just that. "We will send to the Senate the provision which says up or down, are you for defunding ObamaCare or not," Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told reporters Sept. 10.

The provision stands zero chance of passing the Democratic-led Senate, which can act on the continuing resolution separately. The transparently gimmicky nature of the maneuver has enraged some on the right – Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz called it "procedural chicanery --  and a remote possibility exists that Republican defectors could join Democrats in voting no to defeat the rule for the CR, sending leadership back to the drawing board. The conservative Club for Growth is among those urging a no vote.

Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) defended the leadership strategy. "I don't want to see a shutdown of the government. And I don't think anyone believes that the president would sign a bill that defunds ObamaCare," he said.

Once a CR is enacted, Congress will next be faced with the prospect of raising the debt ceiling. According to a recent analysis of federal finances from the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Treasury could hit the debt limit as soon as Oct. 18. GOP leaders would prefer to have a showdown over the health care law at that point, and have proposed tying a one-year delay in implementation to any debt limit increase.

This story was updated on the evening of Sept. 11 to reflect House Republican leadership's decision to delay a vote.

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