House Republican leaders’ strategy for passing a U.S. spending bill lacks sufficient support from members, increasing the risk of a government shutdown.
House leaders postponed a vote until next week as they work to persuade their rank and file to back the plan. A major sticking point is whether to strip funding for President Barack Obama’s health-care law.
“There’s clearly going to be more work to be done with members,” Representative Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican, said in an interview. “We are not where we need to be or we would have voted on it.”
U.S. government funding expires on Sept. 30, and neither chamber has acted on legislation to extend it.
House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor are lobbying their caucus to use a strategy that would force the Democratic-led Senate to vote on defunding Obama’s health-care law.
A number of House Republicans object, saying the leaders’ approach would allow for passage of a spending bill even if the Senate voted to keep funds for the Affordable Care Act. Those members insist on ending funds for the law.
One of those members, Representative Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, said that about 50 to 80 Republicans are against the strategy.
“The bill’s going to have to change,” Massie told reporters in Washington.
With a vote originally planned for tomorrow, Republican leaders notified members about the delay today, Ohio Republican Steve Chabot said in an interview.
Republican leaders plan to stick with their strategy on the stopgap measure and don’t intend to submit a different plan, according to a Republican leadership aide who wasn’t authorized to speak on the record. The aide said that leaders have a gap in their vote count and have yet to get to a 217-vote majority.
“We’ve got some time left here and conversations are taking place,” Representative Hal Rogers of Kentucky, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, told reporters. “It’s not time to panic.”
Right now, the House and Senate are scheduled to be in session together only next week during the rest of this month.
Many Republicans are calling for reductions in entitlement programs and an end to funding for the health-care law in exchange for the spending measure and raising the debt ceiling. The U.S. will reach its debt limit as early as mid-October.
Also today, a Senate Democratic aide said leaders in the chamber’s majority party plan to tell Republicans they won’t accept added conditions to the stopgap government-funding bill or an increase in the U.S. debt limit.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, at a meeting tomorrow with Boehner and other top congressional leaders, will tell Republicans that Democrats would agree to a measure that keeps current spending cuts, said the aide. The aide sought anonymity because the plans weren’t public.
House Democrats said they would oppose the Republican effort to force a Senate vote on the health-care law. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, dismissed the Republican strategy, calling it “clearly a non- starter in the Senate.”
If the plan fails, the risk of a federal government shutdown increases and Republicans’ leverage in talks to raise the nation’s debt ceiling could weaken.
“You know how we stumbled into World War I?” Representative Gerald Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, said in an interview yesterday. “I don’t think there is any design to have a government shutdown, but I think right now Cantor and company risk stumbling into a government shutdown.”
Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said earlier this week his goal was to “cut spending and to stop Obamacare,” not to shut down the government.
The House has voted 40 times to repeal, delay or defund all or part of the health-care law. The Senate has refused to take up almost all of those measures. The 2010 health-care law, upheld last year by the U.S. Supreme Court, is designed to expand coverage to at least 30 million people.
Reid and Boehner plan to meet tomorrow with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, to discuss government financing and the debt ceiling.
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