Republicans’ Health Care Funding Concerns Brew Spending Showdown

House Speaker John Boehner conducts his weekly news conference August 1. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Morning Line

Lawmakers are headed for a clash of political will over funding the implementation of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

The government is funded through Sept. 30, which means there is little time to craft a new spending plan, and it seems the only agreement on the topic is that it’s going to be an ugly fight.

80 House Republicans have signed a letter to Speaker John Boehner demanding the funds for Obamacare be left out of the next continuing resolution to keep the government funded after Oct. 1.

A measure like that is far from certain to pass, and certainly would not receive the president’s signature. So, the result of the gamble could be a government shutdown, which is one reason Boehner and others are trying to stop the movement from growing. Boehner warned colleagues last week on a conference call that his recommendation will be to put forward a short-term spending measure that keeps funding at its current levels — including funding for health care implementation and across-the-board sequester cuts.

The speaker “pressed gingerly for a straight short-term extension of funds to avoid an immediate government shutdown in October, but faced immediate opposition from conservatives demanding that funds be stripped from the health care law,” the New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman reported last week. More from his story:

One thought is to use a short-term spending bill to keep the government running into November, when Congress must raise the government’s statutory borrowing limit. That way, with both a debt default and government shutdown looming, Republicans could apply maximum pressure on the White House to either agree to scuttle President Obama’s health care law or accept significant changes in programs like Medicare and Social Security.

Boehner’s warnings have been echoed by senior GOP lawmakers who fear that a threatened or actual government shutdown will lead to political blowback and a headache the party doesn’t need heading into the 2014 midterm elections.

The fervor is the backdrop for a planned Thursday meeting at the White House. Several Senate Republicans attempting to negotiate a deal on fiscal issues are meeting with top aides. The president’s schedule is clear, so don’t be surprised if he pops in on that meeting.

But any Senate Republicans willing to work with Mr. Obama on spending will have to face a small but fervent group from their own party. Several conservatives have spent the August recess drumming up support back home for zeroing out the health care implementation funding.

At a town hall meeting with supporters last week, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, told supporters that shutdown talk is “a false narrative based on an absolute lie that has been perpetuated by the political ruling class elite in Washington, D.C., that’s been dutifully reported by an all-too-willing-to-comply media…”

Lee insisted that he doesn’t want a shutdown and isn’t calling for one. “In fact, the whole reason I am bringing this forward is to avoid a shutdown,” he said.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Sunday on CNN called for a “grass-roots tsunami” to back his push in the Senate chamber to end Obamacare funding, admitting he does not have enough votes.

Cruz, making waves for declining to endorse his fellow Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, is touring early presidential voting states ahead of a possible 2016 bid.

Sen. Marco Rubio outlined his opposition in the Pensacola News Journal Monday.

Calling the health care law “threatening the future” of his constituents and their children and grandchildren, Rubio said every day he gets a new example of how the law is “hurting” working-class Americans. His op-ed didn’t mention the shutdown threat.

Rubio wrote:

This September, Congress will have to debate and pass a short-term budget. We should not approve one that spends a single cent to implement Obamacare. We should not waste another taxpayer dollar to force this destructive plan on our seniors, employers and middle-class workers. It is unfortunate that the president and his allies would seemingly take our government to the brink in order to compel us to fund his disastrous health care law …

Defunding Obamacare in the short-term budget is the first step to rejecting the diminished future Obamacare guarantees, while restoring the free market principles that have made our economy the envy of the world and that offer the best way to reform our health care system.

The tone he strikes in the piece is a sharp difference from how Rubio was out defending immigration reform earlier this year.

As talk of the spending showdown increases, it’s foreign affairs that has the White House most concerned. The administration is facing mounting pressure to take action in Syria after officials said there was clear evidence of a chemical weapons attack. Expect that to be a major focus this week. We’ll explore it in detail on the NewsHour Monday.


And now, something light.

Anyone paying attention for the last five years may have noticed the president enjoys sports. From the basketball courts to the links, Mr. Obama gets really into playing, and he’s also the sports-fan-in-chief.

Since taking office in January 2009, the president has honored 54 sports teams at the White House. President George W. Bush hosted 40 teams over eight years for similar events.

The NewsHour put together a short report on the phenomenon. Watch here or below:



  • Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg talked to the New York Times, and called this court one of the “most activist” in history. She says she’ll stay on the court until her health deteriorates, and was highly critical of the current Congress and, especially, the court’s Voting Rights Act decision last term.
  • The Associated Press reported on Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s comments that her colleagues are the opposite of tech-savvy. “She says emerging technologies pose a challenge for the court, and it can be difficult to understand whether a decision makes sense given the technology involved. She says the justices are often helped by younger clerks,” the AP reported.
  • Bob Filner is resigning as San Diego mayor in a deal forced by the City Council. The Democrat and former member of Congress is being sued and is under investigation for allegedly sexually harassing several women.
  • There was a twist in the Virginia gubernatorial campaign last week when longtime Republican strategist Boyd Marcus endorsed Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe over Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. It’s the first time Marcus has done such a thing, and it means the powerful Virginia Marcus & Allen consulting firm will dissolve over the split.
  • USA Today details its survey findings: “Estimates from 19 states operating health insurance exchanges to help the uninsured find coverage show that at least 8.5 million will use the exchanges to buy insurance … That would far outstrip the federal government’s estimate of 7 million new customers for all 50 states under the 2010 health care law.”
  • NPR’s Tamara Keith reports on the already nasty Senate race in Arkansas. Sen. Mark Pryor is among the top Democratic targets for Republicans attempting to win back the Senate.
  • The New York Times rounds up the Republican challengers to South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham in next June’s primary.
  • Former Homeland Security assistant secretary Juliette Kayyem is eyeing a bid for governor in Massachusetts.
  • Dylan Matthews of the Washington Post examines the natural-born citizen clause for the U.S. presidency.
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  • The Charlotte Observer checks in on Paula Broadwell’s post-Petraeus-scandal life.
  • Tuesday was Ron Paul’s 78th birthday and here are 78 reasons to wish him a great one. The former Texas Congressman also did a Reddit Ask Me Anything last week. The Washington Post summarized the chat.
  • Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is one of nine members of the House of Representatives who doesn’t have a re-election website up and running.
  • Foreign Policy magazine maps seven governments across the world the U.S. has overthrown, largely because of CIA efforts.
  • The Washington Post launched a new project tracking policy and politics in the states.
  • Salon’s Brian Beutler opens up for the first time about being shot on the streets of Washington to make a point about race relations in the wake of the Trayvon Martin trial.
  • The First Family got a little bigger with the addition of a new puppy, a Portuguese water dog named Sunny!
  • Cat lovers are not pleased that the president added a canine and not a feline to the White House pet family.
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  • BuzzFeed presents members of Congress, as Harry Potter characters.
  • Budweiser, Steel Reserve, Colt 45, Bud Ice and Bud Light are the beers most frequently associated with emergency room visits, a new study found.
  • It’s full panda-monium at the National Zoo, after Mei Xiang gave birth Friday to a newborn cub. She later birthed a stillborn cub. The surviving baby panda seems to be doing well, though it is resisting zookeepers attempting an examination.

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

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  • Get excited … we’re really close to the Sept. 7 debut of NewsHour Weekend! As part of the new show’s rehearsals, Hari and Christina did a debrief about the week ahead in politics over the weekend. Hari also hosted a discussion segment and a deeper look about the United States’ options in Syria and had a conversation about a new material stronger than steel.
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  • Ray brought us an update on the same-sex marriage fights that continue in the court system and in states following the Supreme Court’s June rulings that dismantled the federal Defense of Marriage Act and allowed California to license gay marriages. Ray spoke with John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, and James Esseks of the ACLU.


  • The last batch of Richard Nixon’s secret audio recordings from the Oval Office were released Wednesday. To the University of Virginia’s Miller Center historian Ken Hughes, the tapes show “there are different Nixons for every occasion.” He spoke with Judy Woodruff and journalist Marvin Kalb about three parts of the 1973 tapes, all recorded as Nixon tried to quell the Watergate chaos inside the White House and at the same time build a powerful relationship with China that could help the U.S. resolve the Vietnam War. Watch the segment here:













Former desk assistant Mallory Sofastaii contributed to this report.

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