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House GOP seeks alternative budget bill that funds government, but not Obamacare

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Obamacare,Senate,House of Representatives,John Boehner,Health Care,Nancy Pelosi,Budgets and Deficits,Eric Cantor

House Republicans are still looking for way to keep the federal government funded and open after canceling a vote on a temporary budget bill Thursday because conservatives didn't think it went far enough in stopping Obamacare from being implemented.

Just two weeks remain before the Sept. 30 end of the federal fiscal year and Congress still must approve a spending bill President Obama would sign or risk at least a partial shutdown of the government.

House and Senate leaders in both parties met briefly Thursday, but left without a deal. It will be next week at the earliest before a bill emerges.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., delayed the vote planned for Thursday on a stopgap spending bill, known as a continuing resolution, that would have funded the government through Dec. 15.

The GOP's conservative flank was ready to block Cantor's bill, however, because it did not eliminate funding for the health care law. Cantor's bill requires only that the Senate vote separately on whether to defund Obamacare. It doesn't require defunding, as conservatives want.

"Some people saw it as a gimmick," Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, told the Washington Examiner.

One proposals Republicans are discussing would fund the government but delay implementation of Obamacare for a year.

"The argument is, it's not ready to go, obviously," Simpson said.

Republicans justify their efforts to block the law by pointing to President Obama's own delays for specific provisions of Obamacare, including putting off for a year a requirement that certain employers provide workers with health insurance or pay a fine.

Republicans agree that the health care law should be blocked, at least temporarily. The House on Thursday voted for the 41st time to thwart the law's implementation. In a 235-191 vote, it passed a bill that would require full income verification by the government before it grants health care subsidies to lower-income earners.

But with a Democratic Senate and White House, Republican efforts to stop the law won't go anywhere without the leverage that comes by attaching that defunding proposal to a must-pass government spending bill or the equally urgent legislation that would raise the nation's $16 trillion borrowing limit.

Republicans, however, remain divided over how to stop Obamacare. They're weighing several proposals, including one that would delay implementation of the health care law for a year and use the savings to cancel budget cuts required under the August 2012 sequester deal.

"Let's just delay the whole darn thing for another year, and give them another chance to improve it," Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said.

Republicans see another advantage in delaying the law, Fleming said. "It gives us another year to talk about how it's a terrible idea."

Other proposals Republicans are considering would retain the sequester-related budget cuts, making it harder to win over Democrats. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Cantor's bill, which only requires the Senate to go on the record for or against Obamacare funding, is also still being considered.

"There are a lot of discussions going on about how to deal with the CR and the issue of Obamacare, and so we're continuing to work with our members," Boehner said.

Cantor, meanwhile, warned lawmakers that he may cancel the weeklong recess scheduled for the week of Sept. 23 to give lawmakers more time to work out a deal.

Democratic leaders are urging their members to oppose any GOP bill that would block the health care law or retain the sequester-related budget cuts. If that happens, Republican leaders will have to secure the 218 votes needed to pass the bill exclusively from among their 233 House members.

Democrats want to restore the money lost to sequester cuts, which is a non-starter for many fiscally conservative Republicans.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has already dismissed as "nasty" the Cantor bill that would reduce government funding to $986 billion a year and said other measures may be rejected, too, if they include the same spending caps.

"I think you'll see a strong negative vote on the part of the Democrats," Pelosi said.

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Susan Ferrechio

Chief Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner