By Alexander Bolton - 09/30/13 11:49 PM EDT
Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) are urging House conservatives to pass a series of spending bills to force Democrats to vote against funding what they say are important government services.
Cruz and Lee have spent much of Monday on the phone with House conservatives persuading them to pass mini-stopgap measures to fund areas of government not involved in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
“Earlier today the House and Senate quickly passed the military pay bill, it had a high priority on it and had nothing to do with ObamaCare,” said a Senate Republican aide. “The House should pass a series of bills with high priority that have nothing to do with ObamaCare.”
Cruz and Lee are working on legislation that would fund various areas of the government but not fund any government functions necessary to implement ObamaCare.
They have urged House conservatives to push these bills in the lower chamber because revenue and spending bills cannot originate in the Senate.
“We saw today that a continuing resolution funding the military passed both houses unanimously,” Cruz said in a CNN interview.
“I think we ought to start passing continuing resolutions narrowly focused on each of the things the president listed,” he added. “So he said border patrol agents won't be paid. Fine. Let's pass a continuing resolution that funds border patrol agents.”
President Obama made a statement from the James Brady Briefing Room listing the government services that would be impacted by a government shutdown.
He noted that business owners seeking infrastructure permits or rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy would experience delays raising capital; veterans would find support centers unstaffed; tourists would be unable to visit national parks such as Yosemite and the Statue of Liberty.
Cruz has suggested to House conservatives that most of the government could be funded with three or four bills while leaving ObamaCare unfunded, according to a GOP aide.
“The first tranche could include Department of Defense funding and the military construction and veterans affairs and the Department of Homeland Security,” said the aide. “The second bill could include Commerce Justice, Science, which includes the weather service.”
The conservative senators argue Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) set a precedent earlier Monday when he offered a unanimous consent request to approve continuing appropriations for military pay.
“We saw today that a continuing resolution funding the military passed both houses unanimously,” Cruz said on CNN.
Cruz and Lee think Reid and other Democrats would have a tough time blaming Republicans for a government shutdown if they vote against a series of stopgaps emerging from the House.
A Senate Democratic aide said passage of the military pay bill was a “one-time” exception. The aide said any mini-stopgaps passed by the House would not get to the president’s desk.
The House now is on track to approve a broad government funding measure that would delay the implementation of the individual health insurance mandate. The legislation includes a provision that would deny congressional members and staff from receiving employer contributions once they enter health insurance exchanges.
The latest House plan, however, is dead on arrival in the Senate. Reid said Democrats would kill it quickly.
“Twenty, 30 minutes, we’ll get rid of that,” he said. “We’re not going to negotiate on this. We have done everything we can to be fair and reasonable.”
Cruz said Monday evening that he could not support the latest House proposal because it would allow the implementation of most of the Affordable Care Act to move forward.
“I have repeatedly stated that I will not vote for a CR that funds Obamacare, and I trust House conservatives to continue to listen to the people and act to prevent the Obamacare train wreck," he said in a statement.
Obama warned that hundreds of thousands of people will be furloughed.
“I think it’s important that everybody understand the federal government is America’s largest employer,” Obama told reporters. “In the event of a government shutdown, hundreds of thousands of these dedicated public servants who stay on the job will do so without pay -- and several hundred thousand more will be immediately and indefinitely furloughed without pay.”
Updated at 9 p.m.