As the Senate finalizes making its imprint on a stop-gap government spending bill, House Republicans today continued to press Democrats for partisan changes to the legislation that could ultimately lead to the first government shutdown in nearly 20 years.
While the Senate’s tweaks to the House-passed continuing resolution won a full endorsement from the White House today, House Speaker John Boehner told reporters he does not intend to accept the bill as amended by the Senate.
“The American people don’t want the president’s health care bill, and they don’t want the government to shut down,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “Republicans are listening. We passed a bill last week that would do just what the American people have asked. It’s time for the Senate to listen and pass the bill that we’ve sent over there.”
Given the political risks that come with a prolonged political ping pong match, Boehner was questioned whether he concedes that the government is headed for a shutdown next week.
“No, I do not,” he insisted. “No, I do not expect that to happen.”
Asked whether he is prepared to accept a clean continuing resolution from the Senate in order to avoid a government shutdown, Boehner hinted that more changes are coming from the House.
“I made it clear now for months and months and months, we have no interest in seeing a government shutdown, but we’ve got to address the spending problem that we have in this town,” Boehner said. “There will be options available to us. There are not going to be any speculation about what we’re going to do or not do until the Senate passes their bill.”
While Republicans maintain that their next move has not been decided, GOP insiders say the options being privately discussed are plentiful.
With just four days remaining until the government runs out of funding Oct. 1, some Republicans are said to be pushing for a short-term continuing resolution – even as brief as one week – to enable lawmakers to pursue a bipartisan agreement.
Another option that could be gaining favor as the House GOP’s next move on the continuing resolution: delaying the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act for one year. That plan was initially discussed as a leading preference for the GOP’s game plan on the debt limit, but with the Senate finishing its first crack at the continuing resolution a few days earlier than first expected, some House Republicans continue to press for Obamacare’s destruction.
Rep. Paul Ryan, chairman of the Budget Committee, however, believes the bigger budget fight and any discussion over whether to delay the Affordable Care Act should come on the debt limit debate. The former running mate of Mitt Romney said he believes the House will send an altered bill back to the Senate, but would act quickly enough to keep the government funded.
“We’re in a good place. We’re unified and feel like we have a good strategy,” Ryan, R-Wis., told ABC News following a meeting with the House Republican Conference. “No one is interested in shutting the government down. We don’t see what is accomplished with that.”
Rep. Mo Brooks said House Republicans do not want to be pushed into a corner by Senate Democrats on the budget resolution. He said Democrats should bear the blame for any potential government shutdown.
“We’ve agreed on funding 99 percent of the federal government. Let’s fund that 99 percent and then fight over the remaining 1 percent,” Brooks, R-Ala., told ABC News. “But Harry Reid and Barack Obama insist on a scenario that results in a government shutdown if they don’t get everything that they demand.”
Rep. Sean Duffy, who was critical of Sen. Ted Cruz a week ago, said the Texas Republican “fought a good fight” during his 21-hour marathon speech in the Senate this week.
“I thought he did a great job,” Duffy, R-Wis., said. “But the bottom line is, Do we really think the president is going to go along with defunding Obamacare? I don’t think he will, but there are some issues that we can do, like delay or opt-out for states.”
Current government funding runs out at the end of the day on Sept. 30. The House could act as soon as Saturday to send the continuing resolution back to the Democrat-led Senate, leaving a precarious amount of time for the upper chamber to decide whether to send the legislation on to the president. If Democrats reject the House’s next move, the prospects of a government shutdown become even more likely than any fiscal battle Congress has faced the past three years.
“I’ll personally be surprised if we have a government shutdown,” Brooks added. “And if we do, I’ll be extraordinarily surprised if it lasts anything beyond hours or days as opposed to weeks or months.”