Boehner ups the ante for a budget showdown in September

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told House Republicans on Thursday that he wants to push through a temporary spending measure that incorporates automatic cuts, upping the ante for a September budget showdown.

Boehner’s comments, delivered in a conference call with the rank and file, show that Republicans aren’t backing down from a face-off that could potentially lead to a government shutdown, even after GOP divisions over spending flared up shortly before the August recess.

But the call also underscored that the Republican conference has yet to make any decisions about whether to link their push to undercut President Obama’s healthcare law with a continuing resolution to keep the government funded past September.

Boehner focused squarely on Obama during Thursday’s call, according to someone listening, accusing the president of being so desperate to get rid of sequestration that he would go along with a government shutdown if Republicans didn’t get rid of it.

“The president's threat to shut down the government if we implement his sequester is not a defensible position,” Boehner said. “The American people won't stand for it, and we're not going to be swayed by it.” 

“Our message will remain clear: Until the president agrees to better cuts and reforms that help grow the economy and put us on path to a balanced budget, his sequester — the sequester he himself proposed, insisted on, and signed into law — stays in place,” the Speaker added.

At the same time, none of the GOP leaders on the call, including Boehner, addressed the efforts by conservatives in both chambers to defund the healthcare overhaul in the spending bill. A House GOP aide said Thursday that no final decisions have been made on that front.

“The president has already signed seven bills delaying or repealing parts of his healthcare law,” Boehner said on the call. “We're going to keep the pressure on the president and Senate to act on the delay bills that passed the House in July with significant bipartisan support.”

GOP senators like Ted Cruz (Texas) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) are prominent advocates for linking the two, while 80 House conservatives prodded Boehner to make sure that any spending bill contains no money for implementing ObamaCare.

Other Republicans are skeptical that such a ploy will work and fear that their party would be blamed for a shutdown — like they were during the Clinton administration.

Congressional Democrats and Obama have shown an interest in getting rid of the sequester cuts for fiscal 2014.

The House GOP also pulled a spending measure from the floor shortly before skipping town for August. Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said at the time that the House had decided that sequestration had to come to an end.