By Russell Berman - 09/22/13 10:00 AM EDT
House Republicans are warning of another round of legislative volleys if the Senate restores funding to ObamaCare in a stopgap spending bill, a scenario that would significantly increase the probability of a government shutdown.
Senate Democrats have vowed to remove a provision in the House-passed continuing resolution (CR) that withholds money from President Obama’s healthcare law. If they send back a “clean” version, House leaders would have to decide whether to accept it, or amend it and send it back across the Capitol.
Because of Senate rules, the upper chamber might not return the bill until just days before the Sept. 30 deadline to avert a shutdown. But Boustany and other lawmakers say they won’t be jammed — even if it means missing the deadline.
“I don’t think that’s the end of the negotiations,” Boustany said. “We may have a shut down temporarily.”
Two members of the leadership team, Reps. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Steve Southerland (R-Fla.), said it was more likely the House would try to amend the spending bill rather than accept the Senate’s version.
“I think it’s more likely that we would edit that rebound and send something back over that was more in line with our values, and I don’t think a clean CR necessarily is that,” Southerland said.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) might have to rely on Democratic votes to pass a clean spending bill at the $986 billion level, but Southerland said he did not think the Speaker would bring up a bill if a majority of Republicans were opposed.
“I have no fear of that happening,” he said.
Boehner has refused to publicly speculate on what the Senate will do and how the House might respond, and Republicans said he urged the same message in a closed-door meeting Friday morning.
The Speaker and other House leaders only decided to try to defund the healthcare law in the continuing resolution because of pressure from conservatives. It is not clear that the leadership would want to launch a second round of legislative “ping pong” and risk a shutdown they have already warned would hurt the Republican Party.
But GOP lawmakers are already batting around ideas for the next round on the spending bill: among them are attaching a repeal of the healthcare law’s medical device tax or a repeal of subsidies for lawmakers and congressional staffers.
While the leadership bowed to its members in the first round of the spending fight, the choice next week will be Boehner’s to make alone, Lankford said.
“When we get to that moment, the Speaker is the only one that can negotiate with the Senate,” he said. “We don’t have time to gather and do a big thing on that. The Speaker’s going to have to make a decision.”
Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) have already said the House might have to stay in session through next weekend to resolve the spending fight. The House canceled a recess that had been scheduled for next week and will return on Wednesday.