House to take up budget stopgap that defunds Obamacare

John Boehner

House Speaker John Boehner plans to bring a measure to vote that funds the government through December, with no funding for the health care law scheduled to take effect Oct. 1. (File photo)

House Speaker John Boehner announced plans for a vote on a new stopgap spending plan that maintains federal funding at current levels and defunds the 2010 health care law, setting up a collision with the Democratic-controlled Senate and increasing the odds of a government shutdown Oct. 1.

The continuing resolution would fund discretionary spending at an annual rate of $986 billion through Dec. 15.

In bringing the measure to the floor for a vote, Boehner (R-Ohio) is following the lead of the most conservative wing of the Republican caucus, which has refused to accept any budget plan that does not include preventing the health care law from taking effect Oct. 1, when open enrollment is set to begin. The new continuing resolution tracks with a measure proposed by Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) who put forth a one-year budget extension that funded the government at $967 billion, tilted discretionary spending toward defense, and eliminated funding for the health care law. Graves and other conservatives voiced support for the Boehner continuing resolution.


Read the continuing resolution bill.

"The American people should view this as a victory," Graves said.

A vote on the measure is expected Sept. 19. If it passes, it effectively moves the debate over defunding the health care law to the Senate, where it stands effectively zero chance of passing. It does, however, give some vocal opponents  of the law in that body, notably Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), another chance to make their case.

"The fight over here has been won. The House has voted over 40 times to change Obamacare, to repeal it. It's time for the Senate to have this fight," Boehner said to reporters after a closed-door meeting of House Republicans on Sept. 18.

The fight to watch will be when the Senate kicks the continuing resolution back to the House with the health care defunding provisions stripped out. Boehner and House leaders will be faced with the decision of bringing a revised continuing resolution to the floor and relying on Democratic votes to pass it, or sticking to their guns and run the possible political risks of being blamed for a government shutdown.

"The goal here is not to shut the government down, the goal is to keep the government operating. But we need to repeal Obamacare," Appropriations Chairman  Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), told reporters.

With a Democratic Senate and Obama in the White House, those  objectives appear to be mutually exclusive.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced another possible path to achieving the GOP goal of blocking implementation of the health care law as part of a plan to raise the debt ceiling. That plan would delay the the law for a year and includes other measures, such as approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. The Treasury is expected to run out of money sometime in mid-October or November, and needs congressional authorization to borrow more.

The White House, meanwhile, is prepping for a government shutdown. The Office of Management and Budget released a memo instructing agencies to update their contingency plans for a shutdown, including a review of which agency functions, personnel, and payments are allowed to continue in the absence of an appropriation.

In a speech Sept. 18 at the Business Roundtable in Washington, D.C., President Barack Obama criticized the focus on defunding the health care law, and said he wasn't going to enter into negotiations on an extension of the debt ceiling. At the same time, Obama allowed for the possibility of combining a continuing resolution with a debt ceiling extension, but said that even in that event, the extension would simply be tacked on, and not the product of a back-and-forth on the budget.

"And if there is a budget package that includes the debt ceiling vote, it's not the debt ceiling that is driving the negotiations; it's just stuck into the budget negotiations, because if you're going to take a bunch of tough votes anyway, you might as well go ahead and stick that in there," Obama said.

The new continuing resolution includes a provision allowing the Commerce department to shift funds as necessary to support the deployment of a the Joint Polar Satellite System and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite system. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is facing a gap in its ability to collect polar weather data via satellite, which could be exacerbated by budget cuts.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.

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Reader comments

Fri, Sep 20, 2013

Remember folks the House is the chamber of congress closest to the wishes of the people. They have the smaller constituencies that are very aware of who they are and can rapidly take them out if they don't carry out the people's wishes. Not so with the Senate who represent millions of people and have longer terms and therefore feel less threatened. It is always funny when posters blame the House republicans for digging in their heels and resisting the president. Remember, survival is their most pressing concern, they have to deal with it every two years, and so they are simply doing what the voters in their district want. Don't blame the representatives, blame a significant portion of your fellow citizens who do not agree with the democrats or the president and vote in those representatives to resist on their behalf. It's how our govt works and how it should work.

Thu, Sep 19, 2013

If fully implemented, ObamaCare will screw over both future budgets as well as the U.S. economy. It is better to destroy this plague now even if we have to take some lumps while doing it, or everything will be wrecked in the future and nearly everyone will get hurt far more.

Thu, Sep 19, 2013

So the argument is that Congress should continue to implement a program which is already contributing to higher health care costs, and significant job losses in full-time employment and accelerating the retirement rate of physicians, to avoid having the Senate vote to continue our current path to destruction and the problem is the House? If there is a shutdown, it will be due to the unwillingness of the Senate to negotiate and address the tremendous negative impact of a program which is creating an accelerating drag on our economy. If we don't address the negative impact of that ACA ("Obamacare") and get real on reducing our ever-expanding Federal and State deficits, the economic impact we will soon be looking back on the last 5 years as the "good old days". We cannot continue to be fiscally irresponsible! Those who are backing fiscal responsibility are not the problem.

Thu, Sep 19, 2013 99

"Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced another possible path to achieving the GOP goal of blocking implementation of the health care law as part of a plan to raise the debt ceiling. That plan would delay the the law for a year and includes other measures, such as approval of the Keystone XL pipeline." Incredible. When will we bring these [tools] up on treason charges? It's obvious they don't care about our citizens or our country. Pushing a pipeline and killing healthcare is something the Republican voters need to rectify, or they'll swirl with the rest of us when the bottom drops out.

Thu, Sep 19, 2013

This is what we get when the far left rams through a healthcare overhaul without agreement from the right. Could have seen this coming a mile away. You can't make extreme unilateral changes to the law just because you have a super majority and expect the other political party is just going to lay down and take it. We're in a representative democracy. You need republican votes. It's called consequences for 2010 democrats.

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