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House to Vote on One-Year Delay for Obamacare

House to Vote on One-Year Delay for Obamacare

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - September 28, 2013

The Republican-led House of Representatives plans to vote later Saturday on a measure to fund the government through mid-December but delay the Affordable Care Act for a year -- a defiant bid that is likely to be rejected by the Senate and therefore increases the chances of a shutdown on Sept. 30.

The bill will also include a provision to repeal the medical device sales tax, a levy that raises $30 billion for the health care law. The House also plans to vote on a separate measure to fund the military even if the government does shut down, which all but concedes such an outcome will occur.

Republican lawmakers leaving a rare Saturday afternoon conference meeting celebrated the plan outlined by Speaker John Boehner and other House GOP leaders. “I think everybody was ecstatic,” Rep. Tom Cole, a deputy whip and a Boehner ally, told reporters in the basement of the Capitol after the meeting.

Cole (pictured) said he would be surprised if the measure didn’t attract at least a majority of Republican support and tipped his hat to the leadership team for corralling members around the plan Saturday, given that “they had no earthly idea” about it heading into the meeting. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, who has been a conservative irritant to Boehner before, said members were chanting their approval during the gathering.

“We will do our job and send this bill over, and then it’s up to the Senate to pass it and stop a government shutdown,” Boehner said.

The Senate is slated to return Monday afternoon, just hours before the deadline.

“The speaker has been very candid that he doesn’t want a shutdown. He thinks it’s a bad idea, bad for the country,” Cole said. “That’s why we are moving very rapidly.”

Anticipating the House outcome Saturday afternoon, the White House blamed Republicans for the funding crisis. "Any member of the Republican Party who votes for this bill is voting for a shutdown," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a written statement. President Obama will not bow to "threats" and urges House lawmakers to "listen to the American people ... and move on," he said. 

A week ago, House Republicans celebrated a bill they passed and sent to the Senate that stripped funding for the health care law. The Senate rejected the Obamacare provision on Friday along party lines.

Members leaving Saturday’s meeting demurred on questions from reporters asking whether their gambit would lead to a shutdown, given that Senate Democratic leaders have refused to accept any conditions attached to their version of the bill, which funds the government through Nov. 15 and keeps Obamacare funding in place.

“How dare you assume a failure! How dare you!” a riled up Rep. Darrell Issa responded when asked by a reporter about what happens next. “The fact is, this country is based on people saying they won’t do things and at the end of the day coming together to compromise. We continue to anticipate that there is an opportunity for sensible compromise.”

Other lawmakers seemed resigned despite any potential fallout. “Republicans will probably get blamed for whatever happens,” said Rep. Trent Franks. “But it remains to us to do the right thing, and at least maintain the focus on the country, and hopefully the politics in the end will take care of itself.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued a statement Saturday afternoon calling the impending House bill "pointless. . . . To be absolutely clear, the Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical device tax."

GOP lawmakers asserted that Democrats and President Obama are cheering for a shutdown because, in the words of Rep. Raul Labrador, they are putting “politics ahead of the people of the United States.”

“We don’t want a shutdown,” he said. “There is no Republican in there talking about a shutdown. Our first request was to completely defund Obamacare. I understand why the Democrats rejected that. Our second request is to do a one-year delay of Obamacare. … I don’t think there is anything wrong with asking for a delay.”

Asked how the GOP leadership was handling the funding issue, Labrador said, “They’re listening. I think that’s fantastic.” (The Idaho congressman voted against Boehner earlier this year in the speakership election.)

Cole expects the two amendments related to the health care law to drive a wedge between Democrats. In a non-binding Senate vote to repeal the device tax, 33 Democrats joined Republicans to overturn it; other Democrats, however, say such a measure doesn’t belong in the funding bill with a shutdown at stake and should be treated separately.

Cole said that the House legislation should make red-state Democrats up for re-election in 2014 wary of opposing it. However, all Democrats supported the Senate version on Friday. House members leaving Saturday’s meeting pointed to Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s support for delaying the individual mandate for a year, even though the West Virginia lawmaker said he does not favor tying it to the shutdown showdown. Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, who has previously chaired the upper chamber’s campaign arm, said the House tactic didn’t work in 2012 and insisted it wouldn’t again.

The new measure likely won’t garner support from House Democrats. “Republicans have made their point, now we have to end it,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Saturday.

But Republicans are set to proceed. Asked whether there is a “Plan B” if the Senate rejects this latest tactic, Cole said: “There’s always a plan, but not one I necessarily know anything about.” 

Adam O'Neal contributed to this report.


Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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