WASHINGTON – House Speaker John Boehner said it’s unlikely his chamber will adopt, without revision, any short-term spending plan passed by the Senate, raising anew concerns over a potential governmental shutdown.
At the same time, the Ohio Republican delivered a laundry list of demands congressional Republicans will seek from the Obama administration in return for raising the debt limit – a list that includes a one-year delay in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.
Boehner’s announcement further muddles an already murky picture of the nation’s financial situation. Lawmakers must approve, and President Obama must sign, a stop-gap spending bill known as a continuing resolution by Sept. 30, the end of the federal fiscal year, or much of government will be forced to shut down.
And failure to raise the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling by Oct. 17, thus blocking the ability of the U.S. to borrow funds needed to pay its debts, could result in a worldwide economic crisis.
Complicating matters even further is Obamacare, the most significant accomplishment of Obama’s first five years in office. The law, which requires every American to obtain some form of health insurance to address medical needs, has drawn almost universal scorn from Republicans and conservatives of various stripes who want to kill it.
The House passed a continuing resolution earlier this month intended to keep the federal government running until Dec. 15, providing lawmakers with time to consider a more comprehensive spending plan. It also contained a provision defunding Obamacare.
The Senate is now considering that package with the government’s spending authority due to end on Tuesday. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, is looking to amend the bill to strip out the Obamacare provision and extend spending authority only to Nov. 15. Final Senate passage is expected Saturday – earlier if it can be arranged with the Republican leadership.
Boehner said the House is unlikely to embrace this Senate package as is, setting the stage for a conference committee with an excruciating deadline drawing near. Boehner didn’t say what changes House Republicans might seek but he did insist that he doesn’t anticipate a governmental shutdown.
“I’ve made it clear now for months and months and months that we have no interest in seeing the government shut down but we’ve got to address the spending problems that we have in this town,” Boehner said. “And so there will be options available to us. There’s not going to be any speculation on what we are going to do or not do until the Senate passes their bill.”
On the surface it appears the increasingly bitter battle over Obamacare will shift focus, from the continuing resolution debate to the debt limit. Boehner said House Republicans intend to introduce legislation this week, the Spending Control & Economic Growth Act, which increases the debt limit for a full year but contains a number of economic initiatives championed by the GOP – including a year-long delay in the implementation of Affordable Care Act.
Boehner maintained that “economic reforms must be part of the solution to our imminent debt crisis.”
“While most of Washington’s flawed and outdated budget models don’t recognize it, good policy leads to economic growth, which means more revenue and less borrowing,” Boehner said. “There should be little doubt that the reforms included in a House debt limit package, paired with real spending cuts, will ensure the deficit is reduced by an amount greater than the debt limit increase.”
In addition to the one-year delay in the implementation of Obamacare, the House debt ceiling measure provides authority to overhaul the tax code, eliminates a $23 billion fund to subsidize large bank failures, eliminates mandatory contributions to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, places limits on punitive damages in medical malpractice lawsuits and adopts strict means testing for Medicare patients.