House Strategy Tees Up Showdown Over Budget, Debt Limit


Photo of John Boehner by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call.

House Republicans emerged from a closed-door meeting Wednesday seemingly united behind a strategy that would give members a pair of opportunities to either defund or delay President Barack Obama’s health care reform law in the coming days and weeks. The Morning Line

The first attempt comes Friday, when the House is scheduled to vote on a plan to fund government operations past Sept. 30 that would also eliminate money for the Affordable Care Act.

“We’re going to continue to do everything we can to repeal the president’s failed health care law,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters. “The law is a train wreck.”

Senate Democrats have pledged to reject any effort to disable the health care law. They are likely to strip away the health care provision from the House bill and send the measure back to the lower chamber. Once that happens, GOP leaders would be faced with the choice of risking a government shutdown, or passing a temporary spending plan with the help of House Democrats.

Top Republicans signaled they would also seek to delay implementation of the health care law as part of a proposal to raise the country’s borrowing limit, which is expected to be reached between late October and mid-November. GOP leaders said they planned to include other priorities, such as construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, in any deal.

“That fight will continue as we negotiate the debt limit with the president and the Senate,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

The president denounced the strategy put forward by Republicans during remarks to business leaders in Washington on Wednesday. “You have never seen in the history of the United States the debt ceiling or the threat of not raising the debt ceiling, being used to extort a president or a governing party and try to force issues that have nothing to do with the budget and nothing to do with the debt,” Mr. Obama said.

“I’m happy to negotiate with them around the budget, just as I’ve done in the past. What I will not do is to create a habit, a pattern, whereby the full faith and credit of the United States ends up becoming a bargaining chip to set policy,” he added. “It’s irresponsible.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid joined in, blasting GOP leaders for letting the party’s conservative wing drive the agenda. “Bipartisanship is a thing of the past. Now all we do is ‘gotcha’ legislation,” the Nevada Democrat said.

Boehner, meanwhile, dismissed talk that the Republican approach would make a government shutdown more likely. “There should be no conversation about shutting the government down. That’s not the goal here. Our goal here is to cut spending and to protect the American people from Obamacare. It’s as simple as that,” he said.

While Republicans in the House are on the same page, at least for the moment, their Senate counterparts are taking a wait-and-see approach with the strategy, reports Politico’s Burgess Everett.

One of the leading voices in favor of the defunding effort, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, angered House Republicans on Wednesday by signalling Senate Republicans stood little chance of preventing Reid from removing the health care language from the House spending bill.

“Harry Reid will no doubt try to strip the defund language from the continuing resolution, and right now he likely has the votes to do so,” Cruz said in a statement. “At that point, House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground, and continue to listen to the American people.”

The Huffington Post detailed the reaction from House Republicans:

Aides to top Republicans in the House, where GOP leadership has already been struggling to keep the party together on the measure, were beside themselves. And once granted anonymity, they didn’t mince their words.

“We haven’t even taken up the bill and Ted Cruz is admitting defeat?” fumed one senior GOP aide. “Some people came here to govern and make things better for their constituents. Ted Cruz came here to throw bombs and fundraise off of attacks on fellow Republicans. He’s a joke, plain and simple.”

Amid the political back-and-forth, there were also fresh warnings about the potential impact from the fiscal fisticuffs on the country’s economy.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke outlined the ramifications during a meeting with reporters on Wednesday. “A government shutdown, and perhaps even more so a failure to raise the debt limit, could have very serious consequences for the financial markets and for the economy, and the Federal Reserve’s policy is to do whatever we can to keep the economy on course,” Bernanke said.

Bernanke noted that the Federal Reserve’s “ability to offset these shocks is very limited” and urged Congress and the administration to reach an agreement to avoid a showdown similar to the debt ceiling fight of 2011, which saw the country’s credit rating downgraded and bruised confidence in the economy.

The Chamber of Commerce, a traditional ally of conservative policies, sent a letter to House lawmakers urging them to “act promptly” to avert the threat of a shutdown and to raise the debt ceiling.

“It is not in the best interest of the U.S. business community or the American people to risk even a brief government shutdown that might trigger disruptive consequences or raise new policy uncertainties washing over the U.S. economy,” wrote the Chamber’s executive vice president for government affairs, R. Bruce Josten. “Likewise, the U.S. Chamber respectfully urges the House of Representatives to raise the debt ceiling in a timely manner and thus eliminate any question of threat to the full faith and credit of the United States government.”

Despite the warnings, it appears the path laid out by House Republicans likely means that the threat of a shutdown will carry over into next week, when GOP leaders will have to decide whether to stand their ground, or compromise with Democrats and move on to the next fight.



That’s the word that Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., spelled correctly Wednesday night to claim his prize as the winner of the Politicians vs. Press Spelling Bee at the National Press Club. The event raised money for a journalism nonprofit and was billed as a centennial since lawmakers bested the scribes covering them 100 years ago, with President Woodrow Wilson in attendance.

As the current president might say, this event wasn’t “beanbag.” It’s important to note that the journalists’ team of Howard Fineman, Huffington Post; ?Ed Henry, Fox News; ?Major Garrett, CBS News;? Kate Nocera, Buzzfeed; Rebecca Sinderbrand Politico;? Meredith Shiner, Roll Call;? Ashley Southall New York Times;? Karen Tumulty, Washington Post and Toby Zakaria, Reuters actually ended up with more points at the end of the night, even though Kaine was the victor.

Kaine’s teammates: Rep. Matt Cartwright, Rep. Gerry Connolly, Sen. Chris Coons,? Rep. Peter DeFazio,? Rep. Ted Deutch,? Rep. Anna Eshoo,? Sen. Jeff Flake and?? Sen. Christopher Murphy.

Each person got one free pass and then got the hook after the second mistake.

Flake was the first lawmaker out, having attempted to spell “shenanigans” with a “c” and then misspelling “malfeasance.”

The night included plenty of trash talking and jokes about calling lifelines, asking Siri and heckling from the audience. Among the words that drew snickers from the packed house: stenographer, discretionary, bureaucracy, ignominious and imbroglio. And Fineman got the boot with rhinoceros and demagogic. Some of the tougher ones on the list: somnambulist (Murphy misspelled it) and obstreperous (Shiner got it right).

When the lawmakers were winning, Connolly quipped: “We founded the Mensa caucus.” Soon after, the Virginia Democrat spelled “hydrangea” with an “r” at the end.

Kaine and Sinderbrand went toe-to-toe in the final round, sudden-death style, as judges from Merriam-Webster slowly read each word for them to spell.

Kaine eventually joined the final two journalists left standing on their side of the stage, saying they should just declare a three-way tie and adding: “Can’t we all just get along?”

The final words of the contest: Excrescence, mnemonics, fuchsia, glockenspiel, oppugn, nescience, ochlocracy, ichthyologist, aperitif, louche, peripatetic and vicissitude.

Kaine took off his jacket before spelling the final word, nonpareil, correctly. Noted: Christina would have gotten that one right, but only because she’s a baker.


  • Mr. Obama will attend a memorial service for the people killed at the Washington Navy Yard on Sunday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. It is not yet clear if he will speak at the service. “The president will want to mourn the loss of these innocent victims and share in the nation’s pain in the aftermath of another senseless mass shooting,” Carney told reporters.

  • The National Review’s Jonathan Strong notes House Republicans are split on whether members of Congress and Capitol Hill staffers should receive government subsidies to use in the exchange markets set up by the president’s health care law. The piece includes some choice quotes, including Rep. Phil Gingrey noting he is “stuck here” earning just $172,000 as a lawmaker.

  • The New York Times details advocates’ efforts to stop cuts to the food stamp program.

  • Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said in D.C. Wednesday he is optimistic about the chances for immigration reform legislation.

  • Politico’s Ginger Gibson tees up how Darrell Issa is keeping up his probe into what happened in Benghazi.

  • Roll Call’s Emily Cahn details the primary “frenzy” season that begins Tuesday in Alabama.

  • The former chef who worked at the Virginia governor’s mansion pleaded no contest to charges he embezzled food. Rosalind Helderman and Laura Vozzella have the latest about Todd Schneider’s deal with prosecutors in the Washington Post.

  • Gun control advocates will hold a rally Thursday on Capitol Hill, reading the names of shooting victims in an attempt to persuade Congress to support legislation expanding background checks for weapons purchases. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns group, meanwhile released a report that suggests it is “easy for a person with a criminal record to get around background-check rules and purchase a gun over the Internet,” Reuters reports.

  • Jason Horowitz profiles Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for Vogue.

  • An author examines the brain science that might factor into partisanship.

  • A new survey of New Hampshire voters from the left-leaning Public Policy Polling finds Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pulling 20 percent and 19 percent support, respectively, followed by 14 percent for Jeb Bush, 12 percent for the state’s Sen. Kelly Ayotte and 10 percent for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Hillary Clinton still dominates the potential Democratic field.

  • A former Newt Gingrich aide has formed the Draft Newt PAC in an attempt to get the former House Speaker and 2008 presidential hopeful to challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Warner in Virginia in 2014.

  • The Associated Press reports that Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is staying clear of the dispute over the team’s nickname, saying Wednesday the topic “is something way above my understanding.”

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

  • Judy Woodruff interviewed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel Wednesday about the Navy Yard shootings, Syria, Iran and Egypt. Watch the interview here or below:


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