Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 8, 2016

Shutdown Prospects Soar as Obama, GOP Square Off

The prospect of a partial government shutdown increased significantly this morning.

President Barack Obama made it emphatically clear that he is not in any way open to negotiating a delay or a weakening of his health care law. He spoke just minutes after House GOP leaders announced plans to pass legislation this week that would make defunding Obamacare their condition for stopgap spending until December and an increase in the debt limit good for at least a year.

The president, in remarks to corporate executives at the Business Roundtable, said he won’t allow a “faction” of the most conservative Republicans to “extort” such a concession from him because that “would fundamentally change how American government functions.”

“We will blow the whole thing up unless you do what we want? That can’t be our recipe for governing,” he said in characterizing the Republican plan. He also contended that this could jeopardize the economic recovery by rattling financial markets close to the next two budget deadlines — the start of the fiscal year in a dozen days and the Treasury’s need to borrow money beyond the legal limit sometime in the middle of October.

The remarks were perhaps the president’s most succinct and confrontational yet in this fall’s intensifying version of the budget wars that have consumed so much of Washington’s energies for the past three years. He is hoping to win the battle for public perception the same way Bill Clinton did during a series of shutdowns at the end of 1995. Republicans then were overwhelmingly viewed as petulant and blamed for allowing federal services to grind to a halt because they didn’t get their way in negotiations over cuts in social programs.

Speaker John A. Boehner, who was on a lower rung of the GOP leadership ladder back then, remembers the political beating his side took and has been openly resistant to tactics that could lead to a repeat performance. But the Ohio Republican was quickly overruled at a closed-door meeting of his caucus this morning, and he and Majority Leader Eric Cantor emerged to explain that their latest strategy in the budget battle is to tie straightforward spending and debt provisions to at least two poison pills — provisions to prevent any spending to implement the health care law, which is to take a major step in October with the opening of insurance exchanges, and a requirement that Obama allow construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which he has remained ambivalent about for two years.

There is no way the Democratic Senate would approve legislation defunding Obamacare, no matter its other provisions,. And the odds the Keystone language would survive look only slightly better.

There were some indications in Boehner’s remarks that he might countenance a strategy, only slightly different from the one he was forced to abandon last week, in which the Senate would strip out the provisions it found objectionable and send back to the House a relatively clean measure with the two fiscal provisions — continuing discretionary spending until Dec. 15 at the current sequester-clipped levels (an annualized rate of $988 billion), and permitting the Treasury to borrow whatever it deems necessary through next fall, and presumably beyond the midterm elections.

If the Senate at least goes on the record with a roll call sticking up for Obamacare — such a vote has never happened, even as the House has voted 40 times to defang or repeal the law — the leadership’s hope would be that a sufficient bloc of House conservatives would feel they had done the best they could to promote their cause, relent and allow the budget crisis to be avoided in the nick of time.

At least for today, though, the atmospherics on both sides suggest that a government shutdown lasting at least a few days might be required to focus the negotiators’ minds.

  • 2hheels2

    Please Mr president don’t give into the GOP blackmail. If you ever really stand on principal this is the time.

    • YoungConservative

      Obummer with principles, funny.

      • YouNeedMeds

        Young and conservative, hmm.

  • Ivan White

    I am putting New Mexico’s congressional delegation on notice that if a
    budget deal cannot be reached and the government defaults, causing a disruption
    in my wife not receiving her Social Security monthly annuity and myself not
    receiving my monthly civil service retirement, we will send to those members
    who voted for ‘going over the cliff’ our monthly utilities and grocery bills.

  • Layla

    Shut it down. Nobody out here is working anyway. Maybe it’s time that DC feels the pain.

  • Layla

    For those unemployed people trying to live off their savings, a mandatory healthcare premium will break our backs. If this is such a great plan, why have the unions and Congress been exempted? They can’t afford it but struggling Americans can? Give me a damn break…

  • walthill

    Sequestration has robbed the states and cities in the following ways:
    • millions in funding has been lost for education — plus teachers and aide
    • millions in environmental funding is being lost and not ensuring clean
    water and air quality.
    • millions in grants are lost for fish and wildlife protection.
    • Thousands lost for job search assistance.
    • millions in public health money.
    • millions being cut for military base civilian work, forcing thousands of
    civilian employees to take furloughs.
    • millions lost on meals for seniors.
    • Child care for children lost and Head Start services for
    the sequestration pain and cruelty is just a start, because Republican
    lawmakers are threatening a government
    shutdown unless “Obamacare” is de-funded. Republicans are running
    misleading ads in many of the states so
    separate the myths from the facts. People working multiple jobs to make
    “ends” meet and still struggling are not
    impressed by these phony attempts. The GOP tea party clowns and fools are
    clearly in charge and has
    cannibalized the republican party.

  • Mondovibe

    Cons in regress have had plenty of opportunity to implement a better plan for the urgent need for healthcare to cover more ppl/reduce costs; instead they’ve wasted precious lives, time and millions of tax $ playing w/their etch a sketches, lap dancing for Wall St profiteers and rally for austerity cuts to US, on our dime, instead of investing in Rebuilding a sustainable USA. They should be taken to The Hague for crimes against their own people, humanity and the environment.

Sign In

Forgot password?



Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...