House Leaders May Pair Stopgap Funding With Health Vote
House Republican leaders put together a plan to enact a stopgap government funding measure by forcing the Democratic-led Senate to take a largely symbolic vote on defunding President Barack Obama’s health-care law.
The proposal, which two leadership aides said would be presented to rank-and-file House Republicans today, would allow a short-term U.S. spending measure to be enacted even if the Senate voted not to strip funding from the Affordable Care Act.
“That would be two different votes in the House” on the spending and health-care measures, Representative Tom Latham, an Iowa Republican, said in an interview yesterday. Only after the Senate voted on defunding the health-care law would the House deliver a bill to finance the government, he said.
The House has voted 40 times to repeal, delay or defund all or part of the health-care law. The Senate has refused to take up almost all of those measures. About 80 House Republicans insist on stripping the funding as a condition of enacting a spending bill to keep the government operating after Sept. 30.
Latham said House Republican leaders haven’t reached a final decision on a plan. The two leadership aides who said the plan would be presented to members weren’t authorized to speak on the record because the proposal wasn’t official.
The stopgap funding measure probably would maintain spending at about the current annualized rate of $988 billion from Oct. 1, when the new government fiscal year begins, through Dec. 15, the aides said.
Still, the proposal may get opposition from some of the members it is intended to please. Representative Tim Huelskamp, a Kansas Republican who has lobbied for defunding the health-care law, said at least 20 Republicans would vote against the plan because it would allow a spending bill to be enacted even without defunding of the health-care law.
If a temporary spending measure is passed, the possibility of a government shutdown would be pushed to mid-October, when the government’s borrowing authority would run out. House Republicans have said they would seek a new round of spending cuts or other conditions for voting to raise the debt ceiling.
Obama has refused to negotiate the terms of raising the borrowing authority.
Representative John Fleming, a Louisiana Republican, said that if House Republicans don’t succeed in defunding the health-care law as part of negotiations to fund the government, they would insist on it in exchange for raising the debt ceiling in October.
Fleming said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, is considering that course of action as part of the debt-ceiling debate.
White House officials and House Republicans have said they are determined not to allow a default on U.S. government debt. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in an Aug. 26 letter to Speaker John Boehner that the government would have difficulty functioning on tax revenue of about $50 billion a day.
That’s because the government must make 80 million payments each month to pay Social Security recipients and military personnel as well as other obligations such as Medicare reimbursements to doctors and hospitals, Lew said.
The 80 House Republicans who signed a letter last month urging their leaders to support defunding the health-care law are short of a “majority of the majority” that is usually the benchmark for consensus among the chamber’s 233 Republicans.
A vote on the temporary spending legislation is set for later this week, according to a legislative schedule posted on Cantor’s website.