September 26, 2013

Looking to block Obamacare, Republicans in search of a strategy

By DAN BALZ The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

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Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and GOP leaders speak to reporters after a closed-door strategy session at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013. Pressure is building on fractious Republicans over legislation to prevent a partial government shutdown, as the Democratic-led Senate is expected to strip a tea party-backed plan to defund the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as "Obamacare," from their bill. Boehner originally preferred a plan to deliver to President Obama a stopgap funding bill without the provision to eliminate the health care law. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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The risks to the Republicans have been clear since they started down the path to defund Obamacare as part of a bill to keep the government funded for the time being. They lack the votes in the Senate to defund the act and in any case Obama would never sign anything like it. That is why there was so much consternation in the ranks when House Republicans set their strategy.

It appeared for a time on Wednesday that House Republicans might yield to the obvious and that they were setting their sights on a battle over the debt ceiling. That came after Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, completed his 21-hour marathon talk session on the Senate floor.

Then on Thursday morning, Boehner signaled a double-barreled approach_continuing on with the fight over the bill to keep the government funded and Obamacare defunded while moving forward on a debt ceiling measure that included various other proposals attached to it, from delaying Obamacare to putting tax reform on a fast track to building the Keystone pipeline.

Moving quickly on the debt ceiling was aimed in part at creating wiggle room for the final stages of the battle over funding the government or, failing that, to enter into a partial shutdown. What was clear was that House leaders continue to try to calibrate how much leeway they have, given the insistence and persistence of the most conservative elements of their conference.

Republicans point to some public polling as evidence that they can prevail in a showdown with Obama over the debt ceiling. A Bloomberg News poll showed that about six in 10 Americans believe that because Congress lacks discipline, it's better to include spending cuts on a bill to raise the borrowing limit, rather than simply pass a clean version of the bill.

Republicans interpret that finding and conclude that Obama will be seen as the unreasonable partner if there is a default. Perhaps. Last time, both sides ended up with debris on them when the public turned on Washington's dysfunctional climate. That might be the best Republicans can hope for — but are they willing to take the government over the cliff to test it?

Republicans clearly lack the votes to win the first battle that will play out through the weekend. Whether they have the will and the unity to take the debt ceiling issue to the brink remains unclear. Right now they are scrambling by the hour, with no clear road map to guide them.


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