House Set to Vote on Short Term CR That Defunds Obamacare
House Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, has given into the demands of his conservative caucus. He has agreed to bring to vote a temporary continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the government until Dec. 15 at the $986 billion level, but defunds Obamacare. Knowing the Democratic controlled Senate will not agree to the plan, the Speaker had attempted last week to bring a three month CR to the floor that included non-binding language to defund Obamacare. However, the conservative faction of the Republican caucus objected to this plan and saw the non-binding language as a gimmick; they have forced the Speaker’s hand by demanding a plan that defunds the health-care law. Even Senate Democrats are weary of this approach since they recognize the political realities and fear that pressing on Obamacare could lead to a government shutdown. The House is expected to pass the CR on Friday, Sept. 20 with no Democratic support. It will then go to the Senate where they will likely reject the defunding language and amend the CR, which would then send it back to the House. So, both chambers could participate in a game of ping pong before, hopefully, coming to an agreement on language that could pass both Houses.
Of course, the irony of the Republican proposal to “defund” Obamacare is that most of the funding for the health-care law is from mandatory spending not subject to yearly appropriations, such as the new taxes and cuts to Medicare. So, even with the passage of defunding the law, it will continue to be implemented.
House Republicans plan to vote on the CR and then immediately draft a proposal to increase the debt limit, which will expire in mid-October, through which they will continue to push for delays in implementation of Obamacare and defunding the law, as well as other priorities, such as expediting construction of the Keystone Pipeline.
President Obama stated recently that never in the history of the U.S. has the debt ceiling been used to extort a president and even solicited the help of business leaders in lobbying the Republican party.
So what’s next? Be prepared for a lot of back and forth between the parties and between the chambers. Let’s hope that both sides can agree to a resolution that keeps the government running and doesn’t impact the credit rating of the U.S. The longer the budget battle lasts, the worse the outlook is for any type of agreement on the Medicare physician payment formula and other priorities.
The AGA will continue to monitor the budget impasse and its impact on gastroenterology.