House Sends CR Hot Potato Back to Senate for Third Time (Updated)

Boehner leaves the chamber after the House voted on a continuing resolution. (Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)
Boehner leaves the chamber after the House voted on a continuing resolution. (Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)
Posted September 30, 2013 at 8:41pm

Updated 9:10 p.m. | Just hours away from a government shutdown, House GOP leaders sent a new continuing resolution proposal to the Senate on Monday evening in yet another attempt to undermine Obamacare.

The House voted 228-201. Twelve Republicans voted against the amendments to the Senate-passed CR, and nine Democrats voted for the GOP plan.

Just after the Senate tabled the House’s Saturday proposal to delay the entire health care law for a year, House Republicans emerged from a closed-door, members-only conference meeting Monday afternoon with a new offer: a one-year delay of Obamacare’s individual mandate and a provision eliminating health benefits for members of Congress and their staff.

As Congress continues to ping-pong the CR back and forth, the legislative posturing has done little to bridge the partisan gap between the Republican House and the Democratic Senate.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said she expected the Senate would table the latest House offering as soon as it arrived in the Senate on Monday night.

If the Senate acts expediently, House GOP leaders will again face the same dilemma they have faced all along: Concede on Obamacare and fund the government, or put up a fight and shut down the government.

Late Monday evening, there was little talk of a third option, such as a one-week CR. But there were some indications that kind of solution was under consideration.

Included in the rule for debate of the CR proposal was approval of same-day authority to consider legislation through Oct. 7, which would coincide nicely with a one-week CR.

Additionally, one senior House Democrat said rank and file Republicans were reaching out to the minority Monday about another option.

The Republican members’ message was that there are some in the GOP conference who want to find a solution. One option on the table is a clean two-week CR that could be brought up after midnight, the senior House Democrat said.

On Monday, Reps. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., and Charlie Dent, R-Pa., said they had a moderate revolt prepared to vote down the rule for the CR amendment. But the revolt apparently fizzled, and in the end, only six Republicans voted against the rule.

Instead, a new challenge CR challenge began to emerge.

GOP leaders in the House are starting to reach a negotiating position where moving their offer more to the center could cost them votes on the right — and that could make passage in the chamber more than difficult.

Bachmann said Monday night that Republicans were “unified until this point,” and she said she planned to lobby members against the current proposal.

That could mean that if House Republicans sent a more moderate proposal to the Senate — assuming the Senate rejects the House’s latest proposal — conservatives in the GOP conference might not be on board.

Before the House voted, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Democrats, in an effort to keep government open, were willing to accept the current, sequester funding level of $986 billion.

“This is an explicit offer to the Republicans in Congress to agree to your number in this legislation and take the next weeks ahead to come to the table and negotiate,” Pelosi said.

“We shouldn’t take hostages because the weakness of our ideas. We should go confidently to the table of policy making to debate them,” Pelosi said, continuing that Republicans were going “shut down government unless you overturn the law of the land that has been upheld by the Supreme Court and validated by the last election.”

But an hour and a half later, Boehner came to the floor to say he didn’t want a government shutdown.

“I didn’t come here to shut down the government; I came here to fight for a smaller, less costly and more accountable federal government,” Boehner said.

“I talked to the president earlier tonight. ‘I’m not going to negotiate. I’m not going to negotiate. I’m not going to do this,’” Boehner said as he impersonated the president. “Well, I would say to the president, this isn’t about me or about Republicans here in Congress. It’s about fairness for the American people.”

Whatever way lawmakers wanted to characterize the debate, it was increasingly clear Monday night that the CR proposal was starting to stretch conservatives to a point where they wouldn’t support a more watered-down measure. Former Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio, for example, said he did support this plan — but just barely.

Asked how close Republican were to offering a plan that conservatives couldn’t support, Jordan said leadership was “real close.”

“This is reasonable, and if the Senate can’t take this, I don’t know what else there is to offer,” he said.

Abby Livingston contributed to this report.