By Hill Staff - 07/31/13 12:04 AM EDT
Republicans and Democrats are staking out stark positions on two hot-button issues: ObamaCare and the budgetary sequester.
A growing number of GOP lawmakers say they won’t vote for any government spending measure that funds the implementation of ObamaCare.
Some Republicans believe that if the House GOP passes bills that fund the entire government, but withhold about $10 billion for ObamaCare, Democrats will be on the defensive.
Other Republicans, including Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and strategist Karl Rove, say that strategy is foolish, believing the GOP would take the blame if there were a shutdown. Rove has also pointed out that the Obama administration could move forward with implementation by using discretionary funds.
Many have noted that then-President Clinton bested the GOP-led Congress in the mid-1990s in the public relations war surrounding government shutdowns.
This is a major headache for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who have both previously given the green light to ObamaCare funding bills.
McConnell is facing a primary challenger who is highlighting the issue, and Boehner is grappling with a restive caucus.
Boehner and McConnell support repealing ObamaCare, and the Kentucky senator voted for Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) amendment that would strip funding for the healthcare law.
Earlier this year, Boehner said, “Our goal here is to cut spending. It’s not to shut down the government. I believe that trying to put ObamaCare on this vehicle risks shutting down the government. That’s not what our goal is. Our goal here is to reduce spending.”
The two GOP leaders this month dodged questions on what they plan to do. McConnell on Tuesday simply said there have been discussions among GOP senators and that “there’s no particular announcement at this point.”
On the Democratic side of the aisle, President Obama and congressional leaders are demanding that Congress revisit sequestration. This is a shift from March, when the House and Senate passed a bipartisan continuing resolution that kept spending levels at 2011 levels. That bill did not address sequestration cuts.
There are many fiscal battles that loom in the fall. Not surprisingly, both parties are laying down negotiating markers.
But if Republicans and Democrats are serious about getting a deal that averts a government shutdown, they are going to have to move off their talking points.
If they don’t, they risk being blamed for what is shaping up to be a bitter battle after the August recess.