WASHINGTON — House GOP leaders haven’t indicated what they’re going to do with a short-term budget bill the Senate will send them on Friday, in part because there’s no clear consensus within their caucus as to what should happen next.
As evidence, take the case of two Minnesota Republicans.
Rep. Erik Paulsen said Thursday that, in order to prevent a government shutdown, he could support a short-term budget bill (called a continuing resolution, or “CR”) even if there’s no language within it defunding the Affordable Care Act.
“The reality is, this gave some senators a chance to fight for something they thought they could prevail on in the Senate,” he said of a GOP-passed resolution that defunds the law. “Clearly that wasn’t the case in the end, and we’ve got to be able to move on, cooperate on some other things and make progress.”
Speaker John Boehner said Thursday the House isn’t likely to pass a “clean” continuing resolution, or one without the defund language. But since Republicans seem willing to move forward without Democratic support, at least for right now, lawmakers may choose to attach new, lesser health-care provisions to whatever bill the Senate sends back to them, with the idea being that, in lieu of a full health-care law defunding effort, they could at least try extracting some concessions out of Democrats.
Bachmann on Obamacare
But there are still conservatives, like Rep. Michele Bachmann, who say their caucus should focus on passing a bill blowing up Obamacare.
Defunding or repealing the health care law has been Bachmann’s chief priority, and she’s backed an idea to raise the debt limit for one year if the law is delayed that long as well. Though she didn’t say so explicitly, she implied Thursday she would oppose a bill that does anything short of that.
“I want to see the American people be relieved of the misery and the grief and the suffering of Obamacare for a year, so that’s what I’m behind,” she said. “It needs to have the ability to keep the American people from suffering for another year under Obamacare.”
The problem for Republicans is that Democrats aren’t willing to negotiate on anything that diminishes the health-care law. One of the ideas Republican leaders have floated is attaching a provision to repeal a tax on medical-device manufacturers. Democrats, even those like Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken who support repealing the tax, say that shouldn’t happen right now.
Paulsen on medical-device tax
But Republicans don’t agree on if that’s even enough. Repealing the device tax has been Paulsen’s biggest legislative priority, and he said attaching it to the CR would be “an absolute way to have forward momentum in revealing some of the problems in the law.”
But he said the GOP is likely to attach the provision to a debt-limit increase bill as well. So if Democrats won’t support the tax repeal now, he said he’d focus on bringing the issue up later.
“My attitude is that I’m going to do everything I can to repeal this tax, any time, any way,” Paulsen said. “I tried to lead the charge that this should be a line-item, to repeal this tax, as part of the debt-ceiling negotiations and discussion because it’s directly tied to the economy and it makes sense. So I’m going to try to get it in wherever I can.”
As to preventing a shutdown, he said, “I don’t want to see a shutdown, so I’ll look at whatever the Senate sends over, I just don’t even know what they’re going to send over right now.”
But Bachmann said an incremental approach like repealing the device tax alone isn’t acceptable.
“It’s not enough,” she said. “While it’s helpful, I agree it’s helpful, what we have to do is make sure Obamacare does not become implemented for the next year. That’s very important.”
Devin Henry can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry