David Drucker and Jonathan Strong both have must read articles out on the fight in the House between Republican leadership and conservative activists over how to avid a government shutdown while also rolling back Obamacare.
Leadership wants to pocket a win on sequestration now, and then fight for further concessions on Obamacare later in conjunction with the debt limit. Conservative activists want an all or nothing fight on Obamacare before the end of October.
Drucker writes: "Driving the Republican leadership’s strategy, which could be up for a vote this week, is a desire to protect the automatic spending cuts achieved through the sequester, and use that level of government funding as a baseline to extract further reductions during upcoming but separate negotiations to raise the debt ceiling. If lawmakers don't approve a budget bill to prevent a government shutdown, it would rob them of the negotiating leverage during future negotiations."
Why does the sequester need to be protected? How much leverage are House Republicans looking to preserve for future negotiations?
Right now, the federal government is scheduled to spend $1.058 trillion on discretionary programs before sequestration kicks in. Sequestration is scheduled to knock $92 billion off that figure, sending it down to $966 billion.
The leadership CR funds discretionary spending at $988 billion, which sequestration would then also cut down to that $966 billion figure. But by passing a CR at $988 instead of $1,058, Republicans would be pocketing an additional $70 billion in discretionary spending cuts.
This is the additional leverage Republicans fear they could lose if they followed the conservatives Defund Obamacare plan.
Leadership worries that if they pass a CR that funds everything but Obamacare, the Senate will ignore it, wait till the last minute, and then send over a bill that funds discretionary spending at $1.058 trillion instead of $988 billion. Republicans would then be forced to either cave and accept the $1.058 trillion figure, or take full blame for the subsequent government shutdown.
By contrast, House Republican leadership believes that if they send over Majority Leader Eric Cantor's CR now, Senate Democrats will sign off on the $988 billion spending level, and force vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2014 (like Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., Mark Begich, D-Alaska, and Mary Landrieu, D-La.) to take tough votes fully funding Obamacare.
House leadership then plans to offer Obama a menu of options to for a debt limit hike, and possibly turning off parts of the sequester, a top Democratic priority. As Jonathan Strong reported, Cantor has indicated, but not promised, that a full delay of Obamacare for a year, as well as other proposals (such as delaying the individual mandate for a year) would also be on the menu.
Everything will be on the table at this point, which is why leadership wants the CR-established spending floor to be as low as possible. And they don't think that will happen if they pursue the defund strategy.