House Republicans careful not to tie Obamacare delay to debt ceiling just yet

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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WASHINGTON — Conservative House Republicans are not necessarily ready to support a potential back-up plan to use the debt ceiling to negotiate a delay of Obamacare, should the Senate send back the continuing resolution the House is slated to pass Friday without the provision defunding the healthcare law.

On Friday, the House will vote on a CR that funds the government through the end of the year at sequester levels, and defunds Obamacare. The vote has widespread support from House Republicans, and is expected to pass easily.

But when the bill gets to the Democratic controlled Senate, it is unlikely to keep that shape. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said a bill defunding Obamacare would be “dead” upon arrival, and while Republican Sen. Ted Cruz promised on Thursday to do whatever it takes to defund the health-care law, he admitted in a statement Wednesday that “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.”

What happens after that is something House Republicans have generally declined to discuss. Speaker John Boehner said he was not going to “speculate” on what the Senate might do, and Republican Rep. Jim Jordan said Thursday that “even Bill Belichick doesn’t have a plan for the fourth quarter.”

One potential backup plan, Louisiana Republican Rep. John Fleming told reporters Wednesday, was to pass a clean CR to prevent a government shut down and then negotiate a delay in Obamacare in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

But it is not clear that that plan would be supported by a majority of Republicans.

Fleming himself said he was not sure he could support that. “I don’t know whether I would vote for it [the CR] without the defund,” he said Wednesday.

“At this time I am not ok with that,” said Republican Rep. Raul Labrador at an event with conservative House Republicans on Thursday.

But, he said, there were other alternatives.

“If you listen to what Speaker Boehner has said several times, he says there are other options. So we have other options on the table and I’m not going to lay them all out right now, but there are other things that we can do,” Labrador went on. “And that’s all we’re asking him to do, to engage in the negotiation, to not just say, ‘we’re sending a bill over there and when we get something back we’re just gonna capitulate immediately.'”

It is not clear what those other alternatives would be. A leadership aide, when asked about the issue, repeated again that the House was not going to “speculate” on what the Senate might do.

“At this point we’re at a trust but verify moment,” Labrador said, “where we’re trusting our leadership, just asking us to tell us the next move is going to be before you go,” he said.

Republican Rep. Mark Meadows hedged when asked if he could support tying a delay of Obamacare to the debt ceiling.

“If ultimately the decision is one that I can be assured that Obamacare does not get implemented, I’m willing to look at any strategy that accomplishes that … if it’s just kicking the can down the road, once again, the answer would be no,” Meadows told TheDC.

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