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House OKs Budget Bill That Defunds Obamacare

House OKs Budget Bill That Defunds Obamacare

By Adam O'Neal - September 20, 2013

Defying the president and the Democratic-controlled Senate, the House approved a controversial stopgap spending bill Friday to fund the government through Dec. 15. The $986 billion continuing resolution, which also removes funding for the Affordable Care Act from the budget, passed on almost strictly party lines, 230-189.

House Speaker John Boehner, flanked by dozens of Republican representatives at a boisterous “press rally” afterward, focused his remarks on the ACA, and he urged the Senate to pass the measure.

“Our message to the United States Senate is real simple: The American people don’t want the government shut down, and they don’t want Obamacare,” he said.

Democrats blasted the bill throughout the day, noting that President Obama would veto any legislation that neutered his signature legislative accomplishment. Rep. Eric Swalwell of California called the legislation a “radical, ideological wet dream” on the House floor.

Obama, speaking at a Ford stamping plant in Liberty, Missouri, criticized the vote, saying that the impact of a government shutdown is “not abstract.”

House Republicans are “focused on politics. They’re focused on trying to mess with me. They’re not focused on you,” he said to applause. 

The bill is almost certain to be dead on arrival in the Senate because of the defunding language. The upper chamber will likely send back to the House a “clean” continuing resolution next week that would keep the government running, but without the provisions to strip ACA funding. The Senate version may also include more spending than the one passed by the House, which retains post-sequester levels of spending.

Still, House Republicans tried to place pressure on conservative Democrats in the Senate to vote in favor of defunding the health care law. Majority Leader Eric Cantor specifically mentioned Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and Mark Begich of Alaska -- all vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in red states next year.

If the House rejects the Senate’s version of the legislation, a government shutdown would likely occur. But Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, appearing Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” said he does not expect the House to allow such an occurrence.

“At the end of the day, they’ll blink,” he asserted.

If the House does pass a clean resolution next week, Republicans have vowed continue their fight against the health care law during debt-ceiling negotiations in October.

“We’re going to keep this fight going throughout this entire episode. The fight to delay Obamacare doesn’t end next week. It keeps rolling on,” Chairman of the House Budget Committee Paul Ryan told reporters prior to Friday’s vote.

Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia was the lone Republican to join Democrats in voting against the bill, citing shipbuilding operations in his district that would lose funding.

“I believe it is unwise to delay any shipbuilding operations,” he said in a statement, adding, “These short-term continuing resolutions are creating uncertainty in the private sector and hurting our country.”

Rigell’s dissent lent a modicum of credence to White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest’s comment before the vote that “there actually is bipartisan agreement that the tactics we’re seeing from congressional Republicans are bad for the country and are bad for the economy."

Two Democrats -- Reps. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina and Jim Matheson of Utah -- joined the Republican majority. The two centrists represent largely conservative districts where the ACA is unpopular; both voted against it when the reform measure passed in March 2010.

Although Friday’s passage is only a small victory before certain defeat in the Senate, Boehner seemed to relish the positive reaction from his caucus’ conservative members. On his way out of the post-vote rally, the speaker fist-bumped several conservative congressmen. 

RCP White House Correspondent Alexis Simendinger contributed to this report.


Adam O'Neal is a political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at aoneal@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearAdam.

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