September 11, 2013
John Boehner on the debt
House Speaker John Boehner. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

As my colleague Greg Sargent and others have reported, the House GOP leadership is still struggling to come up with a plan to block Obamacare. Almost as soon as each strategy is floated, the conservative base slaps it down, and Speaker John Boehner and his deputies are unable to find enough votes to pass it. There’s no better sign of the growing desperation and frustration among House GOP leaders than that, according to Politico, they are now targeting their fellow Republicans in the Senate:

But in quiet conversations among senior Republican aides, other motivations are becoming clear, as well. They say passing the defunding [Obamacare] resolution along with the CR and sending it to the Senate is a dare, of sorts, to Senate Republicans.

If figures like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) call the plan chicanery, and other conservatives say the House is weak, GOP leadership wants to see him and others stand up and filibuster the CR. In short, the House is sick of getting blamed for being weak on Obamacare.

Asked whether they are trying to put pressure on Senate Republicans to filibuster, [House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal] Rogers said, “You can say that.”

A senior GOP aide said, “They should be preparing for a two [to] three week filibuster, to prevent the Senate from adjourning .” The aide added that there are enough Senate Republicans to prevent a funding bill from reaching President Barack Obama’s desk.

“By any objective measure, that is 100 percent their failure to defund Obamacare because they can’t even achieve unity amongst Senate Republicans,” the aide said. “If they could tell us that they could do that, we would be in an entirely different strategic situation, but they have failed to even try, and now their plan is to blame everyone but themselves.”

This very public challenge is remarkable for two reasons: First, it suggests that senior House Republicans don’t expect to stop Obamacare and are looking for others to share the blame. Second, rather than take on organizations like the Heritage Foundation and the Club for Growth or right-wing pundits such as Rush Limbaugh for whipping up unrealistic expectations about the prospects of stopping Obamacare, the House GOP is publicly antagonizing the very people who it ultimately needs to work with to have any hope of blocking Obamacare.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that, yet again, Capitol Hill Republicans will remain in disarray right up until the end of the government-funding and debt-limit negotiations. And given that the Republican leadership has to pass something to avoid fiscal catastrophe, GOP chaos in the face of such high stakes is simply bad for the country.

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James Downie is The Washington Post’s Digital Opinions Editor. He previously wrote for The New Republic and Foreign Policy magazine.