That approach ran into fierce Democratic opposition Thursday when Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) told House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) that Democrats had no intention of slowing the implementation of Obama’s landmark domestic policy achievement.
“I told him very directly that all these things they’re trying to do on the Obamacare is just a waste of their time,” Reid told reporters after the meeting.
The go-slow GOP strategy is designed to prevent a government shutdown, which would begin Oct. 1 unless Congress approves a new funding vehicle, and to avoid a showdown on the bid to increase the federal debt limit by mid-October. After several months of using extraordinary measures to keep the government afloat, the Treasury will run short of cash as soon as Oct. 18, according to independent estimates.
GOP leaders have been on the defensive for weeks after outside conservative groups began a campaign to try to force a showdown by attaching language to defund the health-care law to legislation that would provide money to keep federal agencies open. With Obama and Democrats opposed, senior Republicans say that such a strategy would lead to a government shutdown for which Republicans would pay a political price.
But many Republicans objected to Boehner’s initial plan to push through legislation that would extend current government funding levels to mid-December and attach a rider that would strip money for the health-care law — but one that the Senate would easily remove so it could send a clean funding extension to president.
GOP leaders delayed a vote on their plan until next week and the most conservative House Republicans began debating proposals they hope could attract Democratic support.
“The key is we’re going to do everything we can to protect the people of our districts from the harmful effects of this law,” said Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), a junior member of the leadership team.
One compromise idea would be to reverse some of the cuts that were mandated by the 2011 “sequester” deal. Democrats opposed those reductions, and the idea would be to restore that funding in exchange for a one-year delay for the health-care law.
Some conservatives are open to that approach. “Much stronger than what the leadership had recommended to us on Tuesday,” said Rep. Phil Gingrey (Ga.), who is running for the Senate. “I think it would be much more acceptable to my constituents in Georgia. They might not be totally satisfied with it, but much more so than what was proffered on Tuesday.”