On Thursday, Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) introduced an alternative spending bill for fiscal year 2014 that would keep the federal government running and defund the Affordable Care Act, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
The measure -- which is backed by 42 House Republicans and Heritage Action for America -- comes just two days after House leaders proposed a short-term spending resolution that would force the Senate to vote on a bill defunding the ACA, while limiting the threat of a government shutdown (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/12).
The leaders' proposal -- devised by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) -- would fund the federal government, including the ACA, at current levels through mid-December and includes a separate House concurrent resolution that would defund the ACA. Under a rule governing debate, the Senate would be required to vote on whether to include the ACA defunding measure before it votes on the CR.
However, Cantor's strategy received significant push back from conservative GOP lawmakers who favor a CR that includes language defunding the ACA and threatens an Oct. 1 government shutdown if the Senate fails to pass it.
As a result, House GOP leaders on Wednesday sent a notice to the GOP caucus telling members not to expect a vote this week on Cantor's proposal. A House leadership aide said the delay was necessary to explain the plan to members and answer their questions (California Healthline, 9/10).
Details of Graves' Proposal
Unlike Cantor's short-term spending resolution, Graves' measure would devote $967 billion to fund the government for one year, including about $20 billion in sequester cuts that Cantor's proposal delayed ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/12). In addition, Graves' bill would fully defund the ACA and delay the law's implementation by one year.
In a statement, Graves said, "Our plan will achieve fairness for every American by fully delaying and defunding Obamacare until 2015." He added, "This approach builds upon the Obama administration’s policy of delaying portions of Obamacare and relieves taxpayers of the burden of funding a program that is not being implemented" (Dumain, "218," CQ Roll Call, 9/12).
GOP Still Undecided on Spending Bill, Boehner Says
During a press conference, House Speak John Boehner (R-Ohio) said GOP leaders have not yet reached an agreement on an alternative plan to keep the government funded beyond Sept. 30, The Hill reports (Berman, The Hill, 9/12).
Boehner appeared hopeful that an agreement will be reached on time and suggested that Cantor's proposal still is viable. He said, "There are a lot of discussions going on about how to deal with the [CR] and the issue of Obamacare, so we're continuing to work with our members." He added, "I'm well aware of the deadlines ... and so we're working with our colleagues to work our way through these issues. I think there’s a way to get there" (The Hill, 9/12).
Obama, Senate Democrats Will Reject ACA Defunding Proposals
White House press secretary Jay Carney on Thursday said that President Obama would veto any legislation that delays or defunds the ACA, The Hill's "Hill Tube" reports (Sink, "Hill Tube", The Hill, 9/12).
White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Rob Nabors echoed that sentiment on Thursday during a closed-door session with House Democratic leaders. He said that the White House is "willing to negotiate, but not on ACA" (Allen, Politico, 9/12).
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday made it clear that the Senate would not vote on a proposal that includes defunding the ACA, the Washington Post reports. Reid said, "I told [Boehner] very directly that all these things they're trying to do on the Obamacare [are] just a waste of their time" (Kane/O'Keefe, Washington Post, 9/12).
Boehner Considering Congressional Employer Contribution Gambit
In related news, Boehner is considering forcing the Senate to vote on legislation that would strip lawmakers' and congressional staffers' employer benefits contribution in the ACA's exchanges by attaching such a proposal to a continuing resolution, The Hill reports.
Under the plan, Senate Democrats would have to vote on the measure before they could vote on a continuing resolution proposal. Some Republicans say the new strategy would force Democrats to seriously consider delaying the law's implementation to avoid a politically dangerous vote.
Reid rejected the idea that the law treats members of Congress and their staff differently than U.S. residents. He said, "[W]e are going to be part of the exchanges. ... That's what the law says, and we'll be part of that." He added, "We'll be treated like the rest of the federal employees. It's nothing unique that employers help pay for health care" (Bolton, The Hill, 9/13).