House Votes to Fund Government, Defund Obamacare

From the Wall Street Journal

“The House of Representatives, voting along sharply drawn party lines, passed a measure Friday to keep the government funded through mid-December but eliminate funding for the new federal health law, setting the stage for a series of high-stakes negotiations with the Senate over debt and spending.

By 230-189, the Republican-led House passed a plan that would temporarily avoid a partial government shutdown when the current fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

Senate Democrats are planning to strip out provisions that would eliminate funding for the health law. Members of both parties say that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) has enough votes to do so, although the process may entail overcoming time-consuming procedural hurdles laid out by conservative senators that could take up all of next week.”

As optimistic as the House Republicans seem to be, there is very little chance this gets far in the Democrat-run Senate. So when the Senate votes for a clean continuing resolution (CR) without the Obamacare restrictions, it will be up to the House to act on that bill. So what’s going on here?

The House Republican leadership has been repeatedly criticized for caving when it comes to big issues like the debt limit, the fiscal cliff, or funding the government. The conservative wing believes that these are opportunities to dramatically scale back President Obama’s policies and to bring spending under control. However, past experience has made the leadership wary of risking a government shutdown over these issues.  The last time that happened, in 1995, the GOP took a big popularity hit and President Clinton was able to campaign against Congressional Republicans during the 1996 election.

However, the leadership can only hold out so long against the wishes of its caucus. So in the last few days Speaker Boehner acquiesced to their demands and put forth a continuing resolution that strips funding from Obamacare.

A possible hint of what’s to come can be found in the hashtag emblazoned on the podium the Republicans used in their post-vote victory speech. It reads “#SenateMustAct.” This is noteworthy because it puts the onus of action not just on the Senate but on the Senate Republicans in particular. GOP Senators like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee have been whipping up support among the GOP faithful for a game of CR brinkmanship while putting pressure on the House Republican leadership to stand firm. This has ticked off a lot of House Republicans and the result is a lot of nasty words directed at Senator Cruz by anonymous house staffers. Now that the House has voted, the tables have turned and it’s the House GOP that’s pressuring their colleagues in the Senate.

This reversal also has the added benefit of the giving the GOP leadership an exit stratedgey when the Senate fails to pass the House bill. The House GOP can then say “Hey, we did our part. We passed the bill. But the Senate GOP failed to live up to its rhetoric.” Then they could pass a clean CR to avoid a shutdown and the political disaster that would come with it. And for the umpteenth time, the bomb is diffused at the last second and the country can breath a sigh of relief.

Well, at least until the debt ceiling vote in a couple weeks.

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