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Policy: Budgets & Deficits

Next Move: GOP considers delaying Obamacare's individual mandate

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Politics,Congress,Obamacare,Health Care,David M. Drucker,PennAve,Budgets and Deficits,Government Shutdown

Just hours away from a government shutdown, House Republicans could vote on a stopgap measure that would keep the government open but delay for a year the individual mandate in Obamacare and eliminate health care subsidies now given to Congress and their staffs.

The Monday night vote could occur just hours before the midnight deadline for a shutdown. But it’s unclear whether House Republicans leaders have the votes needed to advance this latest continuing resolution budget bill. Conservative lawmakers oppose it because the bill doesn't go far enough in delaying Obamacare. Moderates oppose it because they want to drop the Obamacare fight and prevent a politically risky shutdown.

However, Republican sources said the House GOP leadership team is not rounding up votes for the bill. By Monday afternoon, Republican leaders were committed to putting the bill on the floor regardless of its prospects for success. Yet many conservatives who have been among the most ardent proponents of defunding Obamacare through the continuing resolution are supportive, which suggests the bill has a chance.

“If you’re going to vote to protect your own benefits, go right ahead,” said Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., who has taken a hard line on the Affordable Care Act during internal House GOP strategy sessions.

Senate Democrats rejected the first two budget bills proposed by House Republicans because one would have defunded Obamacare and the other would have delayed the law’s implementation by a year, just as it is set to accelerate on Tuesday with the opening of private insurance exchanges.

House Republicans insist that Senate Democrats will have to accept some change in Obamacare and are hoping that the unpopular individual mandate — which requires nearly everyone to buy insurance or pay a fine — could win Democratic support. At the very least, Republicans believe Democrats would be backed into a corner politically should they vote to protect the health care subsidies for Congress and staff.

Senate Democrats are demanding a "clean" budget bill that would avert a government shutdown at midnight but not touch Obamacare. But House Republicans said that is the one proposal they are almost certain not to pass. The possibility of offering a "clean" bill wasn't even mentioned in a closed-door strategy meeting House Republicans held Monday afternoon.

"They're not negotiating,” Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., said of Senate Democrats. “If they want to negotiate, they all have our numbers, we'd love to negotiate. They're not negotiating. Until then, we're going to keep on representing the American people and do the work."

"Washington only moves under the crucible of great amount of pressure," said Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va. "Public service is a tenuous stream of imperfect alternatives, and in some cases you're trying to figure out which path does the least harm."

Senate Democrats rejected the first two budget bills proposed by the Republican House because one would have defunded Obamacare and the other would have delayed the law's implementation by a year. Republicans insist that Democrats will have to accept some change in Obamacare and are betting that the unpopular individual mandate —which requires nearly everyone to buy insurance or pay a fine — could win Democratic support.

House Republicans exiting a closed-door strategy meeting Monday said they did not expect the House to vote on a government funding bill that did not do something to slow the implementation of Obamacare.

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David M. Drucker

Senior Congressional Correspondent
The Washington Examiner