House will try to force Senate to vote on defunding Obamacare

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
Font Size:

WASHINGTON – The House will attempt to use legislative procedure to force the Senate to vote on defunding Obamacare.

As early as this week, the House will hold a vote to pass a continuing resolution (CR) that funds the government at sequester levels and defunds the Affordable Care Act, something the House has voted for many times in the past. The rule for the bill will require the House clerk to send the defunding portion of the bill to the Senate, but hold onto the CR portion of the bill until the Senate votes on defunding.

Republican House leadership formally introduced the plan Tuesday morning, and sees the vote as accomplishing two things: First, if the Senate passes the CR, it will avert a government shutdown on Sept. 30 when the current CR funding the government expires. And secondly, through a legislative maneuver, it will force the Senate to take a vote on defunding Obamacare before it can vote on the CR.

The Democrat-controlled Senate is not likely to defund Obamacare, but several vulnerable red-state Democrats will have to take politically uncomfortable votes. It will also give several Republican senators, including Sens. Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Marco Rubio, who have been clamoring to use the CR to defund Obamacare, “an opportunity to fight” for that on the Senate floor, said a leadership aide. It will give those same senators an opportunity to block the CR, if defunding does not pass.

If the Senate votes to not defund Obamacare, as expected, Republican leadership expects Democrats to take the blame.

The strategy has already drawn some pushback from conservative groups, who say leadership is using it to con conservatives into continuing to fund Obamacare.

“Are these news reports from The Onion? Or are they real?” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola in a statement, calling the tactics “legislative tricks” that were “trying to fool Republicans into voting to fund Obamacare.”

The Senate Conservatives Fund referred to it as a “trick rule,” saying the bill to defund Obamacare was “phony.”

But leadership said the vote would accomplish Republican goals.

“Our goal here is not to shut down the government,” Speaker of the House John Boehner said at a press conference Tuesday morning. “Our goal is to cut spending and to stop Obamacare. Now, I believe that the strategy that was outlined to the members this morning accomplishes that.”

“This strategy is intended not to really satisfy the House — we’ve already voted,” he said. “It’s to force the vote and force the fight in the United States Senate.”

The leadership aide argued that this was the only way to get a CR passed with sequester-level funding, which was necessary to give Republicans leverage in the upcoming debt ceiling fight.

“If you really want to fight Obamacare, and you actually want to get a result, the only way for us to do that is in the debt limit, and that’s by preserving the sequester, because then we have something to negotiate with,” the aide said.

If, instead, the House were to pass a CR that defunded Obamacare, the Senate would likely amend the bill so that it not only continued to fund Obamacare, but also so that it funded the government at levels higher than sequester levels. By doing it this way, leadership hopes to get the Senate to agree to sequester-level funding, and hold onto their leverage.

Follow Alexis on Twitter