House GOP Devises Ploy to Force Senate Vote to Defund Obamacare
House Republicans will attempt to use a vote this week on a stop-gap measure to fund the government to simultaneously compel the Senate to vote to defund the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare."
While the Democratic-led Senate is unlikely to defund the health care law, Republicans appear keen on putting vulnerable senators on the record in support of the controversial health care overhaul.
"Our goal here is not to shut down the government. Our goal is to cut spending and to stop Obamacare," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said during a news conference at the Capitol today.
"This strategy is intended not to really satisfy the House. We've already voted. It's to force the vote and force the fight in the United States Senate. That's where the issue is, the United States Senate. Let's get the issue over there and force them to actually have a vote on getting rid of Obamacare."
First, this week the House will simultaneously consider a Continuing Resolution at sequester spending levels, $988 billion, and a resolution that would amend the CR to include defunding language, according to a House Republican leadership aide. That vote on passage of the CR also incorporates passage of a House Concurrent Resolution to defund the law.
Upon passage, the House clerk would send the defunding language to the Senate, but the rule for the CR/Defund package provides that the CR would not be transmitted to the Senate until the Senate holds a vote on the defunding language.
If the Senate passes a defunding resolution, then it gets added to the spending bill as it goes to the president. If the Senate defeats it, then the Senate could consider whether it wants t to pass the CR on its own. If it succeeds without the amendment, it goes to the president.
Since the president signed his signature piece of legislation into law, House Republicans have taken 40 votes to defund, disrupt, dismantle and repeal it. Seven of those attempts have been signed into law.
"We know the president's health care law is driving up costs, and it's making it harder for small businesses to hire new workers," Boehner said. "We're going to continue to do everything we can to protect Americans from this harmful health care law."
While it's unclear whether Boehner has the Republican votes to send the scheme to the Senate, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said they are "trying to do everything we can" to stave off the possibility that the law is fully implemented.
"The president himself has admitted that this law is flawed, and therefore, not ready for prime time, in his view. I don't believe it ever will be ready for prime time," Cantor said. "Are you for defunding Obamacare or not? The House has taken a stand numerous times on its opinion of Obamacare. It's time for the Senate to stand up and tell their constituents where they stand on this atrocity of a law."
Dozens of House Republicans signed a letter this summer, an effort led by Rep. Mark Meadows, that pressured the leadership to strip funding for the health care law from the stop-gap measure. One Republican leadership aide noted that the gambit "minimizes the risk that we lose sequester level funding" and "ensures that if defunding does not occur that Senate Democrats are held to account."
Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said he doubted many of his Democratic colleagues would peel off to support the Republican measure.
Even some Republicans expressed skepticism at the proposal.
"The House plan is a gimmick that leaves defunding Obamacare in the hands of the Democrat-controlled Senate, and I will not support it," Rep. Blake Fahrenthold, R-Texas, said in a statement. "I committed to my constituents to go all-in on defunding the Obamacare train wreck. The Senate has proven they cannot be trusted to do the right thing when it comes to the job-killing Unaffordable Care Act."