House GOP Might Vote to Defund Obamacare in CR (Updated)

Posted September 17, 2013 at 6:10pm

Updated 8:50 p.m. | Unable to find the votes for a strategy that only superficially defunds Obamacare, it now appears the House GOP may pursue the plan that tea-party-inspired members have been clamoring for  — a stopgap spending bill that will actually defund the health care law but keep the rest of the government running.

As first reported by National Review Online, the House will likely vote this week on a continuing resolution that funds the government but cuts off funding for Obamacare.

Sources confirmed to CQ Roll Call that Republican leaders discussed such a plan at their Elected Leaders Conference on Tuesday afternoon, but Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, said late Tuesday afternoon that leaders had not yet formally decided to move ahead with that plan. Instead, they are expected to present the plan to members on Wednesday morning.

House Republicans are scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday for their weekly, closed-door conference meeting. That’s where, if such a plan were moving ahead, Republican rank and file would learn about it. “No decisions have been made, or will be made, until House Republican members meet and talk tomorrow,” Steel said.

GOP leaders are expected to be frank with members of their conference about the political realities that lie ahead and that a government shutdown should not be considered. They will likely tell members that if the Senate can’t pass a measure defunding Obamacare, the conference needs to support a plan to keep the government funded without that piece.

House GOP leadership aides were tight-lipped about the details of the new CR proposal, but rumblings suggested that the stopgap spending bill would adhere to the current sequester levels of $988 billion. Democratic leaders have called that a “non-starter” in negotiations, but it is still more palatable to the minority than the $967 billion level proposed by more conservative House rank-and-file members.

If the leadership sticks with that $988 billion level, it’s highly unlikely that they would embrace an alternative measure introduced by Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., last week. That bill, which would enshrine the $967 billion level for a year, has gained some traction among the far-right House members.

Some GOP lawmakers on Monday — including supporters of the Graves bill, such as John Fleming of Louisiana and Thomas Massie of Kentucky — signaled the funding level wasn’t a sticking point for them. Instead they indicated they would support any CR that defunds Obamacare as long as it was without “gimmicks.”