Back To The Barricades

As their 41st attempt to repeal Obamacare died in the Senate today, House Republicans unveiled their 42d tilt at that windmill.

The Senate stripped from legislation needed to fund the government when the new fiscal year begins October 1 the House provision to defund the Affordable Care Act.  If the House tries to tack it back on when the bill goes back there in the next several days for final passage the likely result is a government shutdown that many in the GOP feel  — and the polls affirm — would be disastrous for their party.

But driven by a strident tea party dominated minority– for whom a shutdown might play well in their districts although not the rest of the country — the House leadership may not be able to resist.  Senate Republican leaders stood aside while Democrats stripped the House language from the continuing resolution to fund the government until December 15, when everyone expects the House Republicans to try again, for the 43d time.

But first, it’s #42 and the $16.7 trillion federal debt limit that must be raised lest the government will go into default.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew notified Speaker John Boehner today that the debt limit will be reached “no later than October 17,” and “Treasury would have only approximately $30 billion to meet our country’s commitments,” Politico reported.

The President phoned Boehner last week to tell him the debt limit extension is not negotiable. Congress voted for this spending and is morally and legally obligated to pay for it, he said.  Moreover, default would do great damage to the United States economy and disrupt markets here and abroad, as it did the last time Republicans tried to hold it hostage to their demands.

House Republicans, driven by their hardline tea party minority, think Obama’s bluffing and unveiled today their 42d attempt to eviscerate Obamacare and get a few other items on their wish list. They’ll try to get a one-year delay for core Obamacare provisions, such as the individual mandate to buy health insurance.  Other possible riders include authorizing the Keystone pipeline, setting timelines for legislation to lower tax rates for the wealthy, changing the cost-of-living formula for Social Security and trimming Medicare benefits.

GOP leaders are telling reporters these add-ons are sweeteners needed to win Republican votes for an unpopular bill to raise the debt limit.  Democrats these are ransom demands for lifting the debt ceiling.

The debt limit measure could come up for a House vote as early as Friday. Republicans have a majority in the House and their bill is virtually certain to pass along the usual party lines, setting up another 11th hour crisis in brinkmanship like the one currently underway. 

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.