This makes two separate reports from major media outlets about yesterday’s powwow at the White House that suggest the GOP’s dropping its ObamaCare demands. The NYT claimed that, in return for raising the debt ceiling for six weeks, Republicans “sought the president’s commitment to negotiate a deal for long-term deficit reduction and a tax overhaul.” Deficit reduction, not ObamaCare. Now Politico’s claiming that they actually offered to end the shutdown next week, at least for awhile, if O played ball with them on the debt ceiling. Remember — the whole reason tea-party groups like Heritage Action were okay with a short-term debt-ceiling hike is because, in theory, it cleared the way to re-focus on stopping ObamaCare by digging in on the shutdown. Instead, evidently, Republicans are ready to end the shutdown for a month or more in order to initiate broader negotiations with the White House. Which means that, contra tea partiers’ wishes, discussions over the shutdown and the debt ceiling will end up being “merged” after all. Which in turn means defunding/delaying ObamaCare, if it’s not off the table already, is likely headed for the shelf as the parties focus on deficit reduction instead.
House Republicans told Obama at the White House that they could reopen the federal government by early next week if the president and Senate Democrats agree to their debt-ceiling proposal. After the debt ceiling is lifted, a House GOP aide said they would seek some additional concessions in a government funding bill.
Obama repeatedly pressed House Republicans to open the government, asking them “what’s it going to take to” end the shutdown, those sources said. He questioned why the government should remain closed if both sides agreed to engage in good-faith negotiations on the budget, according to a Democratic source briefed on the meeting…
Obama agreed to review the House Republican proposal for reopening the government, but reiterated that he wouldn’t pay a ransom, the Democratic source said.
The “additional concessions” the GOP’s asking for to re-open government obviously won’t involve any major revisions to ObamaCare. Otherwise, we’re back where we started on all this and there wouldn’t be whispers on both sides about a “breakthrough” or “encouraging” discussions, etc. Maybe Obama would agree to repealing the medical-device tax, which Democrats also dislike, purely to let Boehner save a tiny bit of face. But that’s likely to be the extent of it. In fact, also per Politico, the Senate GOP appears to be preparing its own offer that would raise the debt ceiling and end the shutdown — for a year, not six weeks like the House bill — in return for freezing spending at sequestration levels plus “a repeal of Obamacare’s medical device tax, changes to the Independent Payment Advisory Board and income means testing for Obamacare subsidies.” Again, nothing about delaying or defunding O-Care. The consolation prize for caving is, I guess, the “changes” to IPAB that they’re hoping for, as being able to say that they dented ObamaCare’s “death panels” might theoretically help them with angry tea partiers. But I don’t know — I can imagine that backfiring via the logic that, by merely changing IPAB instead of demanding its repeal, the GOP’s tacitly endorsed it. They’ve become reluctant stewards of the new health-care paradigm, just like the Tories.
Anyhow. If you were hoping against hope for some real action on O-Care, I think Jon Karl’s right. This looks like a cave:
Republicans made it clear Thursday night that they need something in exchange for agreeing to end the shutdown. The president told them that he could, in principle, offer only something that he would normally offer through the course of regular budget negotiations; in other words, nothing on Obamacare, no major spending concessions…
The bottom line: Republicans are working out the terms of their surrender and are attempting to get something for a standoff that has divided the party and cost dearly in the polls. On substance, it is Republicans who are giving in, although the president is now doing something he said he would not do: negotiate while the government is shutdown and there is a threat of default.
I’m watching tweets flow in from this morning’s Values Voter Summit and apparently neither Rand Paul nor Marco Rubio, both of whom backed the “defund” strategy, mentioned ObamaCare or the shutdown fight in their speeches. (In fact, Rubio conspicuously omitted the subject from his Senate floor speech yesterday.) You can dismiss that as a non sequitur if you like — “why mention health care at an event about social policy?” — but if the GOP was winning big from the past two weeks and prepared to fight to the bitter end on defunding, rest assured that every speaker at the summit would be taking a victory lap this morning.
There is, I guess, a chance that Boehner and the House GOP are only shelving O-Care defunding temporarily, to get negotiations going, and that they’ll bring it back once the next fiscal deadline approaches in November. But c’mon: Given the polling and the fact that most of them really don’t want to have this fight, who believes they’ll have the stomachs to do that? Once the government’s open again, it’s open for good. Exit question: Assuming Obama gives Boehner some token concession next week to re-open the government, he’ll almost certainly need Democratic votes to pass this thing, no? NRO reported last night that there are roughly 150 Republicans who’ve signed on to Ryan’s strategy to turn this into a negotiation over deficit reduction, not ObamaCare, so Boehner might be able to pull this off without violating the Hastert Rule. But that still leaves him with a divided caucus, some of whom are likely to be angry that the quixotic “defund” project was abandoned. Where does that leave him and the House GOP going forward?
Update: Just breaking from AP with no details yet: “House GOP offers debt limit hike, end to shutdown in package with spending cuts.” Again, ending the shutdown (as opposed to the debt ceiling) was never part of the conservative strategy on this. The point of raising the debt ceiling for six weeks was so that Republicans wouldn’t feel pressured to end the shutdown. But here we are.