House GOP Plan: Try to Defund Obamacare, Fail, Then Try to Delay It

The Republican leadership doesn’t seem to be looking very far in the future.

Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

If you don’t obsess over Congress for a living, the status of the bills that would fund the government and raise the debt limit—different things!—is probably confusing. House Republicans have added to the confusion for a while, trying and failing to use the “leverage” (as Mitch McConnell calls it) of these mandatory duties to destroy Obamacare. At this morning’s conference meeting, in a little less than an hour, they were briefed on the new plan.

Step One: Pass, probably with only Republican votes, a continuing resolution that funds the government for the rest of the year at sequestration levels, but permanently cuts funding for Obamacare.

Step Two: Watch the Senate fail to pass that plan, while hoping that they don’t. “Ted Cruz and Mike Lee have been asking for this fight,” said Louisiana Rep. Jon Fleming. “If they can deliver on the CR to defund, hey, more power to ‘em.”

Step Three: Grudgingly pass a CR that funds Obamacare after all. This might mean a rump of Republicans join the mass of Democrats.

Step Four: Pass a debt limit increase that delays Obamacare’s implementation by one year, as well as builds the Keystone XL pipeline. “It’s kind of like the follow-up plan, assuming that [the defund plan] fails,” said Fleming. “It simply delays it, including taxes. If the president thinks this a good law, if he can implement it, he’s got a year to do it.”

Steve Five: Hope this works. Seriously, that’s it so far—when I asked Georgia Rep. Tom Graves about the next step, given that the defund plan is based on his legislation, he said he was “focused on the House” and not thinking ahead. But the cynic might expect a watered-down debt limit bill that gives conservatives Keystone and maybe a couple of bells and whistles on Obamcare. The best they might be able to get would be a delay of the individual mandate, which has passed the House on a bipartisan vote—35 Democratic “ayes”! But the stakes for that doomed vote and one that would effectively gut the law are quite different.