Hoping to avert a possible government shutdown at the end of the month, Rep. Tom Graves introduced a bill Thursday that he and dozens of his conservative colleagues believe could solve a looming fiscal fight facing Congress.
But his proposal, which defunds the president's health care law, is likely to draw intense opposition from Democrats should it come up for consideration.
With current government funding set to run out Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year, Graves' legislation would fund the government just below post-sequester levels for the next 12 months while delaying and defunding the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, completely until 2015.
"After weeks of working with and listening to members on how to approach the government funding deadline, it's clear that House Republicans are united around two goals: keeping the government open and protecting our constituents from the harmful effects of Obamacare," Graves, R-Ga., wrote in a statement. "Today, my 42 cosponsors and I are putting forward a plan that achieves both goals."
The measure, known as a continuing resolution, or CR, includes House-passed spending levels outlined in the Defense, Homeland Security and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bills for FY2014 while fixing the spending rates for nine remaining non-security bills at a post-sequestration number of $967.4 billion. Democrats, on the other hand, have called for the CR to be funded at a $1.058 trillion level consistent with the Budget Control Act had sequestration been averted.
Many Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, have fought to delay implementation of the health care law throughout the summer after President Obama announced a delay to the business mandate in July. Now, the House appears ready to take another legislative crack at disrupting the president's signature law.
"This plan is straightforward. We will achieve long-term stability by funding the government for the next fiscal year," Graves noted. "Finally, our plan will achieve fairness for every American by fully delaying and defunding Obamacare until 2015. This approach builds upon the Obama Administration's policy of delaying portions of Obamacare and relieves taxpayers of the burden of funding a program that is not being implemented."
"After years of symbolic votes, the House should defund Obamacare now when it really matters," Indiana Republican Rep. Marlin Stutzman, a cosponsor of the bill, added. "That's exactly what our bill does."
After pulling an unpopular legislative scheme from the floor Wednesday that would have coupled the CR with a resolution to force the Senate into a vote to defund Obamacare, Boehner would not reveal his next move to keep the government funded.
"We're working with our colleagues to work our way through these issues," Boehner, R-Ohio, said during a news conference Thursday. "There is a way to get there. I'm going to be continuing to work with my fellow leaders and our members to address those concerns."
Later, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi warned that any legislation that scraps the Affordable Care Act would lead to a government shutdown.
"They know that what they're proposing is not going to pass the Senate or be signed by the president, so why don't we just save time, be constructive?" Pelosi, D-Calif., said during a news conference at the Capitol. "Just because you're an anti-government ideologue who has landed in Congress, doesn't mean that you should be shutting down government."
It remains to be seen whether Boehner brings the Graves bill to the floor for consideration, but even if it passes the House, it is likely dead-on-arrival in the Democrat-controlled Senate. President Obama would likely issue a veto threat as well.
Nevertheless, Sen. Mike Lee, a conservative favorite from Utah, praised Graves for introducing the measure and called on the House to send it to the Senate.
"The president has delayed the implementation of ObamaCare for big business, unions, and his special interest supporters," Lee, R-Utah, wrote in a statement Thursday. "Congress should act to delay it for the rest of the country, as well."
Heritage Action, which opposed the Boehner proposal to force the Senate into holding a vote to defund the health care law, praised Graves and the 42 cosponsors for "stepping up to fill a critical void in the House."
"Congress must act now if we are to prevent the damage that will be caused by the implementation of Obamacare," Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham stated. "Already, jobs are being lost, hours cut and insurance lost. There is absolutely no doubt the law has failed and cannot be salvaged. We encourage all members to support the Graves bill."