THE MORNING LINE -- September 18, 2013 at 9:20 AM ET
GOP Leaders Search for Shutdown Solution
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speaks to reporters after Tuesday's Senate policy luncheon on Capitol Hill.
Under pressure from tea party lawmakers and outside conservative groups, House Republican leaders appear set to push forward with a temporary spending proposal this week that would strip funding for President Barack Obama's health care reform law, raising the prospect of a potential government shutdown in less than two weeks.
The new strategy follows an attempt by GOP leaders last week to pass a measure to fund the government until December that would have allowed the Senate to remove the health care provision and send the plan directly to the president. A group of conservative Republicans objected to that approach, forcing party leaders to drop a vote on the plan.
That has left House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy with no other option, write Politico's Jake Sherman and Josh Bresnahan:
Now, the leadership is tacking hard to the right -- a provision defunding Obamacare in the $988 billion spending bill -- in a move to get 217 House Republican votes and put the heat on Senate Republicans to filibuster any government funding package that doesn't derail the Affordable Care Act.
After the planned passage of a continuing resolution Friday or Saturday that would keep the government funded through Dec. 15, House GOP leadership's goal is to begin crafting a debt ceiling plan that could get a vote as soon as next week.
That way, when the Senate sends a CR back across the Capitol that doesn't defund Obamacare, they hope House Republicans will see the debt cap as a more attractive place to dig in. Republicans say Democrats will eventually see the wisdom of using the debt ceiling to strike a deal that cuts the deficit and fixes sequester cuts. This would allow Republicans to avoid being blamed for a government shutdown and shift the focus to the struggle over boosting the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling.
House Republicans are scheduled to meet Wednesday morning to discuss the next step, but the president and Senate Democrats have already made clear that they will not accept any proposal that eliminates funding for the health care law, whether it is tied a government spending measure or increasing the country's borrowing limit.
The New York Times' Michael Shear reports Mr. Obama will highlight the potential economic risks of allowing the country to default on its obligations during an address to a national business group in Washington on Wednesday:
Aides said Mr. Obama would use an appearance before the group, the Business Roundtable, to call out House Republicans who have said they will not raise the nation's debt ceiling unless they succeed in repealing Mr. Obama's signature health care law.
"The president will ask the business community to help send the message to Congress that a default would be disastrous for our economy and for businesses across the country," a White House official said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Tuesday called on Republican leaders to stand up to their rank-and-file members.
"None of the Republicans are willing to stand up to these anarchists," Reid said. "They're obsessed with a bill that passed four years ago, a bill that was declared constitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States. They can't get over that."
"It's up to the House to act. We're waiting for them to act. Until they act, we're going to do nothing," Reid added. "I've told the speaker personally, I told the Republican leader here in the Senate personally and directly, we are not going to have them hold the [continuing resolution] or a debt ceiling hostage to "Obamacare." We're not going to do that."
The head of the Congressional Budget Office, Doug Elmendorf, said Tuesday that the country could reach the debt limit between the end of October and mid-November, later than previously suggested. That buys lawmakers additional time to sort out that piece of the fiscal puzzle, but the deadline to approve a government funding measure remains Sept. 30.
A CNN poll released last week found a majority of Americans would blame Republicans for a government shutdown, while a third would fault the president.
That has some GOP lawmakers urging colleagues to back off their demands with respect to the health care law.
"Republicans ought to understand if we shut down the government, Congress always gets blamed -- rightly or wrongly -- Congress gets blamed," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told CNN on Monday. "We've seen the movie before. It's just some of them weren't around at the time; I was."
The dilemma for House GOP leaders is any agreement that conservative members will support is unlikely to make it through the Democratic-controlled Senate and get to the president's desk. That would leave Boehner and his team in the position of once again relying on House Democrats to help pass a proposal against the wishes of some in his conference.
Then the determination will have to be made which move carries the bigger political risk: shutting down the government and the possible blame for that, or drawing the ire of the party's conservative base which helped propel the GOP into the majority just a few years ago.
GUN CONTROL DEBATE RENEWED
As the capital city grieves for the 12 victims named Tuesday in the Navy Yard shooting, the president and Congressional officials are considering again whether gun control legislation should be on the political agenda.
The issue hasn't resurfaced since a stunning vote in the Senate five months ago halted a plan to expand background checks. And it isn't likely to see movement soon.
Mr. Obama commented on the shootings in an interview with Telemundo Tuesday with a tepid call for action on gun control.
The Washington Post summarizes:
"You know, I do get concerned that this becomes a ritual that we go through every three, four months, where we have these horrific mass shootings," Obama said in the interview.
"Everybody expresses understandable horror. We all embrace the families -- and obviously our thoughts and prayers are with those families right now as they're absorbing this incredible loss. And yet we're not willing to take some basic actions."
The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting propelled gun safety to the top of Obama's second-term legislative agenda, but Senate Republicans as well as some Democrats in April blocked a proposal to expand background checks.
"You have a majority of the American people and even a large percentage of Republicans who are ready to move the country forward, and yet we keep on getting blocked," Obama said. "It's a challenge that I'm speaking out on, but ultimately we're also going to meet pressure from the public to see if we can change how they do business up there."
Namely, Senate Democrats and others seeking gun control measures don't have the votes to pass legislation on the issue. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday the issue is still on his mind, though he's not prepared yet to test Congress with it again.
"We're going to move this up as quickly as we can, but we've got to have the votes first," he told reporters.
That doesn't mean the topic of guns -- or, more likely, mental health, also brought into focus by this latest massacre -- will fade from some Congressional members' agendas.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., and Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., plan to hold a news conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday to push for universal background checks legislation. Joining them will be family members of gun violence victims from cities including Aurora, Colo., where a gunman killed 12 people at a movie theater in 2012, and activists from Newtown, Conn.
In his Telemundo interview, Mr. Obama also addressed immigration reform. He said he would not attempt to halt the deportation of illegal immigrants.
In an early poll for the New York City mayoral general election, Democrat Bill de Blasio leads Republican Joe Lhota by more than 40 percentage points.
CNN's Peter Hamby reports that Texas Gov. Rick Perry will tour Maryland's largest gun manufacturer on Wednesday as part of "his ongoing effort to lure businesses to his home state," and as part of a spat with Gov. Martin O'Malley.
Wisconsin voters are closely divided on how Gov. Scott Walker is doing, but he still leads four potential Democratic opponents for his 2014 re-election bid by anywhere from four to seven percentage points, according to a new automated survey from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling.
Donors whose contracts with the state of New Jersey prohibit them from giving directly to Gov. Chris Christie are instead funneling their contributions through the Republican Governors Association, which has kicked back $1.7 million to Christie.
Hillary Clinton has granted her first interview since leaving the State Department in February to New York Magazine's Joe Hagan. The piece will be published Monday, timed with the start of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York.
Talk about disagreeing without being disagreeable. Massachusetts state Rep. Carl Sciortino has made quite a splash with this heartwarming ad, featuring his father, a Tea Party supporter, as he seeks the Democratic Party's nomination in the fifth Congressional District's special election primary.
Former Rep. Dennis Kucinich, now of Fox News, reportedly interviewed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Sunlight Foundation's Political Party Time blog celebrates five years with some pretty -- and pretty enlightening -- infographics
Big Mac messing up your six pack? Child rapper Chi Chi Monet brings us the First Lady's campaign to "move" with style.
Gwen Ifill spoke with Ernesto Londono of the Washington Post about the latest in the Navy Yard shooting, and Judy Woodruff followed by looking at the state of mind of gunman Aaron Alexis, and how he gained security clearance to be a defense contractor.
NPR's Julie Rovner answered questions about the Affordable Care Act's exchanges set to open in October.
NewsHour producer April Brown has part two in our series, Arctic Thaw.
Don't have 19 hours to watch the full Costa Concordia operation? Here's an 83-second time lapse video.
. @EdMarkey will deliver his maiden floor speech tomorrow morning (in the Senate, he's talked in the House before).— Noah Bierman (@Noahbierman) September 17, 2013
Happy Birthday to my colleague @ChuckGrassley, who is celebrating an important milestone today.— Tom Harkin (@SenatorHarkin) September 17, 2013
Final MAD MEN season to air in 2 parts, 2014 and 2015. They shd get Peter Jackson to direct final ep, in 3 parts, for 2016, 2017, and 2018— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) September 17, 2013
Christina Bellantoni and Simone Pathe contributed to this report.
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