GOP pushes government toward shutdown

Updated
House Republicans cheer as Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, arrives in the Rayburn Room for their rally following the House vote on a continuing...
House Republicans cheer as Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, arrives in the Rayburn Room for their rally following the House vote on a continuing...
Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

The Republican-led House passed a stop-gap spending bill Friday that’s destined to die in the Senate, raising the likelihood of a government shutdown that would close national parks, halt soldiers’ paychecks, hold up student loan requests and otherwise set off a freeze on federal operations.

The House bill, called a CR or continuing resolution, keeps the government funded through Dec. 15 as a broader budget deal is hammered out, but it also strips all funding from the Obama administration’s health care law—a non-starter with the White House and the Democrat-controlled Senate. The GOP bill would fund the federal government at its current $986 billion levels.

Even though it was passed 230 to 189–largely along party lines with two Democrats crossing over to vote with the GOP and one lone Republican holdout–the legislation has no chance in the Senate where Majority Leader Harry Reid has called the House bill a “waste of time,” and dead on arrival. President Obama has repeatedly said he would veto any legislation that would defund his landmark health care law upheld by the Supreme Court last year despite repeated GOP attacks and House votes to halt it.

The Senate would take up the legislation next week when it returns, possibly choosing to strip the Obamacare provision out of the bill, or sending an entirely new one back to the House where the two sides would need to agree in order to avoid a shutdown–a possibility that is seeming less and less likely. Earlier this week, House Speaker John Boehner said “There’s no interest on our part on shutting the government down,” but by sending a bill to the Senate he knows won’t pass, the Republican leader sets his party up to take the blame for shutdown. The budget year ends Sept. 30.

Meanwhile, the Treasury has warned that Congress needs to raise the debt limit before mid-October in order for the government to keep paying its bills—another sticking point with conservatives who don’t want the federal government to approve any further spending. One GOP proposal suggests that the debt-limit could be extended for year if the health care law is delayed in its entirety for a full year.

GOP rift exposed in Obamacare-budget fight

The House bill is just what conservative Republicans have been clamoring for all summer as a way to register their dislike of the health care law, but bringing it to the floor has even further exposed deep rifts and downright animosity, within the GOP ranks. (Republicans point out that the health care law remains unpopular with much of the public, even three years on. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found 44% of Americans see the law as a bad idea.) Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who’s been one of the most outspoken Obamacare critics got his wish with the House vote, but also infuriated many his own colleagues when he said in a statement that even if Reid strips the defunding language, “House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground, and continue to listen to the American people.” Shifting blame back to the House didn’t sit well with many of his colleagues, and triggered a massive pile-on for Cruz’s seeming disregard that the math simply isn’t there in the Senate.

Republican Rep. Peter King of New York said Cruz was “carrying out a fraud with the people” while Sen. John McCain said, “Cruz can do whatever he wants to with the rules of the Senate….I can tell you, in the United States Senate we will not repeal or defund Obamacare, and to think we can, is not rational.”

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who’s drawn fire from the more conservative factions in the GOP, was blatant in his criticism, tweeting “I didn’t go to Harvard or Princeton, but I can count – the defunding box canyon is a tactic that will fail and weaken our position.”

Cruz also isn’t ruling out a filibuster to block any legislation that includes Obamacare funding, telling NBC News he would “use any procedural means necessary.”

Democrats have battered Republicans for taking up the doomed bill. On the floor just before the House vote, freshman Democrat Eric Swalwell of California said Republicans should “wake up from this radical ideological wet dream and come back to reality.”

Two Democrats, Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, voted with Republicans on the bill. Both conservative legislators opposed the original health care bill and face competitive re-elections in 2014 in heavily Republican districts and just narrowly survived close contests last year. A lone Republican, Scott Rigell who represents Virginia Beach, voted against the measure.

After leaving the GOP conference meeting Friday, King reiterated his harsh words against Cruz, but said that today’s vote was what they had to do to mollify the most conservative faction of his party.

“It’s something we have to do. It’s a step in the right direction,” said King. “And hopefully it will be a major step in letting people know that Ted Cruz is a fraud and he’ll no longer have any influence in the Republican Party.”

Another GOP Rep., Congressman Tim Griffin of Arkansas said ahead of the vote that the House bill was just part of a “first volley.”

“I don’t want to shut down the government,” Griffin said on The Daily Rundown Tuesday prior to the vote. “I am very practical. I also learned that good war plans are good through the first volley, then everything changes. So I am going to be ready to do everything that we can and be realistic about it.”

Reaction from both sides was swift. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chair Steve Israel called it a “new low,” and pointed to a “chaos and dysfunction of House Republicans” in a statement.

“House Republicans have now made their priorities crystal clear: they will protect insurance companies’ profits at all costs, even when it hurts middle class families,” he said.

Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus promptly tweeted his congratulations to his fellow Republicans and took a dig at the president’s health care law, too:

Reaction from both sides was swift. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chair Steve Israel called it a “new low,” and pointed to a “chaos and dysfunction of House Republicans” in a statement.

“House Republicans have now made their priorities crystal clear: they will protect insurance companies’ profits at all costs, even when it hurts middle class families,” he said.

Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus tweeted his approval of the bill and took a dig at the president’s health care law, too:

RT @Reince: House passes budget and fights to end #Obamacare trainwreck #SenateMustAct

— RNC (@GOP) September 20, 2013

President Obama weighed in on Friday evening after returning from a trip to Kansas City, where he spoke to workers at a Ford auto plant. “The president telephoned Speaker Boehner and told him again that the full faith and credit of the United States should not and will not be subject to negotiation,” said a White House official.

Obama told Boehner that the American people and the nation’s economy don’t need “another politically-motivated, self-inflicted wound.”

GOP pushes government toward shutdown

Updated