WASHINGTON – House Republican leaders said Tuesday they will try to force the Democratic-led Senate to vote on defunding President Obama’s health care law before the House will agree to enact a stopgap government-funding measure.
“Our goal here is not to shut down the government,” Speaker John Boehner said. “Our goal is to cut spending and to stop Obamacare.” Boehner said he wants to send a bill eliminating funds for the health care law to the Senate and “force them to actually have a vote on getting rid of Obamacare.”
Second-ranking Senate Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois dismissed the strategy. “This will be the 41st, I believe, futile House vote on Obamacare,” Durbin said. “The speaker obviously thinks that it serves his purposes within his caucus, but it’s clearly a non-starter in the Senate.”
The House leaders’ plan also hasn’t yet received the backing of rank-and-file House Republicans, many of whom want a binding measure to eliminate funding for the Affordable Care Act. The House plan would allow a short-term spending measure to be enacted even if the Senate voted not to strip health care funding.
“We will send to the Senate the provision which says, up or down, are you for defunding Obamacare or not?” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia. “It’s time for the Senate to stand up and tell their constituents where they stand on this atrocity of a law.”
Congressional leaders of both parties plan to meet Thursday to discuss government funding and the U.S. debt ceiling. Congress must enact a spending measure to keep the government operating beyond the end of September. The nation is projected to reach its debt limit in mid-October.
Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., said party leaders will be assessing members’ support of the plan to pair the health care and spending-bill votes. Rogers, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said he supports the strategy because it satisfies members’ needs for up-or-down votes on both measures.
Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., said lawmakers were “just listening” to the leadership’s plan and he didn’t take a position. “I’ll do everything I can to stop Obamacare from going into place,” he said.
Several Republicans expressed opposition because they said they see the strategy as nonbinding. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said in a message on Twitter: “I do not support the hocus-pocus plan that doesn’t really defund Obamacare.”
The White House and lawmakers in Congress haven’t come up with a compromise to keep the government running and avoid a rerun of previous showdowns over the debt limit. Senate Majority Harry Reid sent a letter to Boehner requesting Thursday’s meeting with all four leaders, a congressional aide said. The two will meet with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, aides said.
The House has voted 40 times to repeal, delay or defund all or part of the health care law. The Senate has refused to take up almost all of those measures.