As expected, in the past hour Reid and the Senate Democrats killed the House’s Plan B bill calling for a one-year delay in ObamaCare. And so, inevitably, the one-week stopgap option appears.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is floating a one-week government funding bill that would give both parties time to manever. The Kentucky Republican gave Speaker John Boehner a heads up about the plan earlier this morning. McConnell is looking to give Boehner another option as the government heads towards a shutdown at midnight, sources close to the situation say. House leadership, meanwhile, had been chiefly discussing a plan to include a delay of the individual mandate with language relating to the Obamacare subsidy for lawmakers and congressional staff.
Centrist House Republican Charlie Dent also wants a clean CR in the name of avoiding a shutdown, but not as a stopgap. He’s ready to throw in the towel and accept the Senate’s bill and will make the case for doing so at this afternoon’s House GOP caucus meeting. That’s a nonstarter, though, and everyone knows it. Enter McConnell, hoping to punt for a week to buy Boehner time to mold a consensus option in the House. Surely Harry Reid will agree to that, right?
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shot [down] the idea outright. Exiting the meeting of Democrats and asked if he was dead set against a one-week CR Reid said, “Yes.”
Senate Democrats instead have said they favor a 6-week CR that strips out the House language delaying Obamacare and repealing the medical device tax.
A clean one-week funding bill is worse than a shutdown for Reid since it moves this whole process even closer to the debt-ceiling deadline in mid-October. All that does is increase the GOP’s leverage. If Congress kicks the can for a week and then the government shuts down next Monday, House Republicans may decide to roll debt-ceiling negotiations into the frozen negotiations for funding the government and raise their demands accordingly. There may be no way to avoid hitting the ceiling at that point. In that case, Reid figures, he’ll teach the House a lesson now by letting them shut things down and face the political consequences. If Republicans start getting pounded in the polls, maybe that’ll make House conservatives (or, more importantly, the rest of the caucus) think twice about debt-ceiling brinksmanship. If they don’t get pounded, though, and both sides end up being blamed next week, that may embolden the GOP to stick to its ObamaCare demands on the debt ceiling. That’s Reid’s gamble in a nutshell — he wants this episode to be a lesson to his opponents, but the lesson that ends up being taught may be very different from the one he intends. What’s interesting is that he seems to think Boehner and McConnell might not fold in the name of avoiding default; if he did, then a one-week stopgap that pushes this process closer to the debt limit is just what he needs to increase pressure on them. I think he’s wrong — Boehner will break the Hastert Rule and raise the debt ceiling with Democratic help at the eleventh hour if need be, whatever that means for him personally — but Reid’s obviously taking the possibility seriously.
One other interesting question: Will Reid allow a vote on McConnell’s one-week bill, purely in the interest of dividing the GOP? Mitch the Knife would probably get a majority of Senate Republicans to back him; then the pressure would be on Boehner to either allow a vote in the House on a bill that’s supported by his colleagues in the other chamber or to rule it out and face even more media pressure on House recalcitrance. (That pressure is useful to Boehner, of course, in getting House conservatives to cave for the time being, which is why he undoubtedly welcomes McConnell’s gambit.) Precisely because Reid opposes the bill, Boehner could try to sell it to House conservatives as something that actually helps them: By postponing the shutdown for a week, he can say, we move this debate into the debt-ceiling debate and maximize our leverage. That probably won’t work, but it might be tonight’s last-gasp midnight option if all else fails. As it probably will.
Here’s Barbara Boxer proving that if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Exit question: Roll Call reports that…
Aides indicated that the House is expected to work late into the night — even early into the morning — to send the Senate yet another proposal that would amend the continuing resolution with some sort of GOP policy priority. Part of the calculus from House leaders seems to be a belief that whichever chamber holds the CR during a shutdown will hold the blame.
Er, is that likely? Doesn’t seem likely to me.