Chaos in House Over Obamacare Fight
Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images.
Remember that time House Speaker John Boehner’s Republican members put him in a tough spot? When lawmakers wanted to pressure him to go farther on a fiscal matter, no matter the consequences?
Yeah, that’s happening. Again.
Republican leaders on Wednesday pulled a measure that would have funded the government beyond the end of September, delaying a scheduled Thursday vote on the spending bill until next week. The current continuing resolution expires at the end of September, leaving little time for a compromise plan to pass both chambers and make it to President Barack Obama’s desk.
Tea party conservatives demanded that any funding be paired with a measure to defund the president’s health care reform law. The bill in question does that, but has a legislative escape hatch that would allow for the Obamacare provision to be stripped out by the Senate. And party leaders were forced to admit they didn’t yet have the 218 votes needed to pass that plan.
Some of the most conservative members of Boehner’s caucus want to see leadership go the distance.
Rep. Steve Scalise, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said that lawmakers “must use every legislative avenue available, through the CR, the debt ceiling, and sequester conversations to free the country from the president’s train-wreck of a healthcare law.” Scalise vowed he would “continue pushing for a CR that delays Obamacare for one year.”
A clearly frustrated Boehner seemed to realize that he leads a conference where no plan is quite good enough. There are frequently about 30 Republicans who oppose leadership’s carefully crafted plans — just enough to mess things up. A reporter asked him whether he has a new idea to resolve the government funding fight. He laughed and said, “No.”
“Do you have an idea?” he asked the reporters. “They’ll just shoot it down anyway.”
And The Hill captures two lawmakers who illustrate the deep divisions within the GOP these days:
Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-Ohio) said proposals from conservatives that had more teeth and would directly defund the healthcare law stood no chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
“Find me 60 votes in the Senate,” Tiberi said. “That’s what I would say. I’m with them philosophically — completely. But show me how you get 60 votes in the Senate. That’s the key.”
On the right, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) voiced frustration at what he characterized as a watered-down version of the policy that conservatives wanted: a single spending bill that would withhold funds for the healthcare law.
“Wouldn’t it be ironic if the government shuts down because our leadership won’t offer a bill that Republicans will vote for?” Massie said. “I mean, that’s what happened this week. Now we’re a week further into this because they put forward a bill that Republicans won’t vote for.”
The fight had been brewing all summer, fueled in part by the Heritage Foundation’s tour and the involvement of Republican senators pushing the defunding issue. (Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is attempting to tie defunding to an energy bill up for debate.)
The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan sums it up:
Some conservatives see the fall fiscal debates as the last best chance to shred Obamacare. And they’re willing to do it at all costs, even if it means temporarily shuttering the government, which would be the result of passing something the president won’t sign. Others see that as a disastrous outcome that will destroy the GOP brand.
Democrats rejoiced at the Republican infighting.
“Republican leaders spent all week pledging to jam through a temporary funding measure that defunds the Affordable Care Act, wreaks havoc on Medicare, and extends the life of the Republican sequester. But division in their own ranks scuttled this latest gambit and upended this doomed strategy,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
A new CNN poll released Wednesday found support for the president’s health care law waning: “In January 51% said they favored all or most of the provisions in the new law. Now that figure is down to 39%.”
And this is all playing out ahead of the health care exchanges, a key provision in the law aimed at expanding coverage, opening up in October. The NewsHour will be examining questions about Obamacare this month as lawmakers continue to wrestle with the spending battle.
With Mr. Obama hitting pause on a potential military strike against Syria, the push for a diplomatic solution has also created an opening for Russian President Vladimir Putin to reassert himself on the international stage.
On Thursday, he did so on the editorial page of the New York Times, issuing a direct challenge to Mr. Obama’s claim of American exceptionalism in his address to the nation Tuesday night.
“It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation,” Putin wrote. “There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”
On Tuesday, the president made the case that the U.S. must not allow the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons on its own people go unchecked.
“America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong,” Mr. Obama said. “But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional.”
Putin also asserted that it was not President Bashar al-Assad’s government that used chemical weapons, but the rebels.
“No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria. But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists,” he wrote.
And the Russian leader also took aim at U.S. foreign policy more broadly. “It is alarming that military intervention in internal conflicts in foreign countries has become commonplace for the United States. Is it in America’s long-term interest? I doubt it. Millions around the world increasingly see America not as a model of democracy but as relying solely on brute force, cobbling coalitions together under the slogan ‘you’re either with us or against us.’”
Those comments will hang over Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Switzerland Thursday, where he is scheduled to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in an effort to broker a diplomatic resolution that would result in Syria turning over its chemical weapons stockpiles.
In an interview with Gwen Ifill on Wednesday, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he remained skeptical of Russia’s actions given the country’s support of Syria.
“One has to question whether the Russians are really sincere in this effort. And, it doesn’t give you confidence when President Putin says, ‘Well, the United States has to renounce all use of violence.’ That is obviously unacceptable.”
McCain added: “This has to be played out, Gwen. It has to be at least for a period of time. I hope a short period of time. But we cannot ignore it.”
If diplomatic negotiations stall, McCain said the president would still face an uphill climb when it comes to changing minds in Congress to support a military strike.
“I think it’s a tough slog. I think you would have to identify more with American national security interests,” McCain said. “I think we have to make the case, which I think the president could, if the Russian initiative turns out to be a false one, that he’s tried every possible other option.”
In Thursday’s New York Times, Peter Baker examines the Obama administration’s strategy toward Syria, noting the “highly unusual series of pivots” the president has made in recent weeks.
The Washington Post, meanwhile, reports on the CIA’s push to deliver weapons to the rebels in Syria, which began arriving in the past two weeks.
Watch Gwen’s full interview with Senator McCain here or below:
The Washington Post’s Ann Marimow and Philip Rucker report a D.C. businessman at the center of a city corruption scandal secretly financed more than a half-million dollars worth of get-out-the-vote efforts for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Roll Call’s Abby Livingston and Emily Cahn have the five House primaries to watch.
The House Ethics Committee will not launch full-scale investigations into several cases, but is continuing to examine the questions raised about possible ethics violations from Reps. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., Peter Roskam, R-Ill. and Timothy H. Bishop, D-N.Y.
Public Policy Polling said it chose not to release a poll last week on state Sen. Angela Giron because its margin for predicting her loss in the Colorado recall election was so wide it looked like an anomaly. But the poll was correct. Giron lost on Tuesday by 12 percentage points. Later Wednesday, PPP, Nate Silver and other polling directors hashed out the ethics of the situation on Twitter. The Washington Post has the Storify.
About 32 million viewers watched the president’s speech on Syria Tuesday night. That’s more people than many of Mr. Obama’s other speeches on war, except for his announcement of the death of Osama bin Laden, which drew about 56 million viewers.
Former Rep. Clay Shaw, the Florida Republican who served in Congress for 13 terms after holding the mayoral seat in Fort Lauderdale, died Tuesday from lung cancer. He was 74.
The White House canceled the 2013 Congressional Picnic again, thanks to the sequester.
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., tried to see a movie, but was interrupted by constituents who wanted to ask him to oppose the Syria resolution.
Ben’s Chili Bowl is opening a Virginia location, taking over the old Ray’s Hell Burger site.
A man wearing a President Obama mask robbed a New Hampshire Bank of America Wednesday.
- Whoa. Also: bummer, dude!
Cindy Huang asked and got answers. See our multimedia project, “Why I Carry a Gun.”
Hari Sreenivasan examined what a post-Bloomberg Big Apple might look like following Tuesday’s primary election results.
- Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.
"Drink Up" may not have been the best slogan for FLOTUS's water campaign. Sounds vaguely alcoholic.
— Eddie Scarry (@eScarry) September 12, 2013
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) September 11, 2013
— E McMorris-Santoro (@EvanMcSan) September 11, 2013
— Ruby Cramer (@rubycramer) September 11, 2013
— Matt Ortega (@MattOrtega) September 11, 2013
Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.
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