Republicans Risk Shutdown on Obamacare

September 18, 2013

Leaders in the House of Representatives have a message as it heads further down a path that could shut down the government: Republicans are banded together.

“I have not watched our conference be so united,” Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Wednesday during a press conference. “We are going after the battle we have always wanted to wage.”

Filing out of their caucus meeting Wednesday, rank-and-file Republicans appeared pleased and relieved they had convinced leadership of their latest plan to stop Obamacare.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced he would give his members a chance to vote on a continuing resolution that would defund the Affordable Care Act, a maneuver many view as the last chance the GOP has to stop the president’s health care law from being implemented.

“Obamacare is worthy of throwing yourself on the sword,” says Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb.

The House is expected to vote Friday on the funding bill, which the Senate is expected to outright reject.

For a House Republican conference that has been divided on nearly every major legislative issue this year from the farm bill to immigration, a moment has emerged to charge ahead in unison. But the political costs may far outweigh the temporary reprieve from intra-party squabbling.

Polls show the American people would overwhelmingly blame Republicans if this plan resulted in a government shutdown. Boehner, for his part, squashed that narrative – which is emerging on Capitol Hill.

“There is no interest in shutting down the government,” Boehner said.

Looking beyond the fight to keep the government funded, Boehner announced Wednesday that the House may cancel its recess next week in order to deal with the debt ceiling, another deadline-induced fiscal crisis that requires congressional action.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., signaled Republicans would not increase the debt limit without concessions from the White House. Republicans want to see comprehensive tax reform and the Keystone XL pipeline advanced, and Obamacare implementation postponed for one year.

It’s the debt ceiling fight that is worrying some economists.

“I am really worried,” says Alice Rivlin, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Bill Clinton. “It seems to me that some of the Republicans really don’t understand what a terrible idea it would be for the United States to default on its debt. That would have really serious ramifications for a very long time.”

She acknowledges Boehner “is in a very tight spot,” but says he should be looking for other options to keep the country’s fiscal house in order.

“He has the option of moving with a majority that is not a majority of his own party,” Rivlin says.

Meanwhile, the issue took a political turn.

The House Majority PAC, a Democratic campaign group, sent out releases targeting vulnerable Republicans who will have to decide whether to go along with the conservative faction of their party at the risk of alienating swing voters.

The group blasted out releases against nine Republican congressmen, including Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill.

“House Republicans have turned over the keys to the kingdom to the intransigent Tea Party that’s gunning for a government shutdown,” Andy Stone, communications director for House Majority PAC, said in one of the released statements.”The Tea Party’s my-way-or-the-highway shutdown drive is now the official position of the House Republican conference. The question remains, will Rodney Davis endorse a plan that will either shut down the government or put insurance companies in control of health care decisions?”

Other members targeted, include Republican Reps. Mike Coffman, Colo., Gary Miller, Calif., Mike Fitzpatrick, Pa., Michael Grimm, N.Y., Joe Heck, Nev., David Joyce, Ohio, John Kline, MInn., and Steve Southerland, Fla.