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.
The measure takes dead aim on environmental policy, approving the construction of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline running from Canada to the Gulf Coast, easing restrictions on offshore oil and gas production, permitting increased energy exploration on federal lands, rolling back regulations on coal ash and blocking Environmental Protection Agency regulations announced last week on greenhouse gas production at newly constructed coal-fired power plants.
Most of the provisions in the Spending Control & Economic Growth Act already have passed the House in some form only to be ignored in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
“We need to strengthen our economy for all Americans – and we need to deal with Washington’s spending problem,” Boehner said.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, said the GOP debt ceiling initiative offers proof that the Republican agenda “keeps going from bad to worse.”
“The Republicans keep threatening a government shutdown in order to put insurance companies back in charge of America’s healthcare,” Pelosi said. “Now, Republicans continue to hold the full faith and credit of the United States hostage to their radical agenda.”
Pelosi said the nation can’t afford “another Republican manufactured crisis” and that Democrats “support a clean increase in our debt limit so America can pay its bills and avoid another debilitating crisis to our economy.”
House Republican Leader Eric Cantor, of Virginia, noted that GOP lawmakers have consistently demanded “that any increase in the debt limit be accompanied by savings and reforms commensurate with the level of additional borrowing being asked of the American people.”
“The House Republican plan achieves this benchmark and will not only reduce wasteful Washington spending but also help put more money in the pockets of American families and encourage job growth and opportunity,” he said. “Our plan delays the implementation of ObamaCare, which will help job growth and our economy while protecting people from its negative consequences.”
Appearing in Largo, Md., delivering a speech promoting the Affordable Care Act at Prince George’s Community College, Obama said he will not negotiate terms over the debt ceiling, insisting that “we’re not a deadbeat nation.”
“As for not letting America pay its bills, I have to say, no Congress before this one has ever – ever — in history been irresponsible enough to threaten default, to threaten an economic shutdown, to suggest America not pay its bills, just to try to blackmail a president into giving them some concessions on issues that have nothing to do with a budget,” Obama said. .
Obama called the U.S. “the world’s bedrock economy, the world’s currency of choice,” and said that “the entire world looks to us to make sure that the world economy is stable. You don’t mess with that.”
“And that’s why I will not negotiate on anything when it comes to the full faith and credit of the United States of America,” he said to applause. “We’re not going to submit to this kind of total irresponsibility. Congress needs to pay our bills on time. Congress needs to pass a budget on time. Congress needs to put an end to governing from crisis to crisis.”
Boehner dismissed the president’s vow to reject debt limit negotiations.
“Now the president says, ‘I’m not going to negotiate,’” Boehner said. “Well, I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way. We’re not going to ignore Washington’s spending problem and we’re not going to accept this ‘new normal’ of a weak economy, no new jobs, and shrinking wages.”