Votes on Keeping Government Open Could Come Down to the Wire

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The House will vote this week on a measure to keep the government open past Sept. 30, Speaker John Boehner announced on Wednesday.

The legislation also will include language defunding the 2010 Affordable Care Act, tying the Republican effort to repeal President Obama’s health care reform law to funding for basic government operations.

The continuing resolution would fund the government through Dec. 15 and keep the across-the-board budget cuts from the sequester in place.

The Senate is likely to strip out any provisions gutting Obamacare, sending the continuing resolution back to the House to reconcile the two versions and edging the government closer to a shutdown.

Republicans met Wednesday morning to lay out a new plan for tackling the impending fiscal deadlines, after the party’s most conservative wing rejected a measure that would have allowed the Senate to pass a continuing resolution without defunding Obamacare.

During a briefing with reporters, Boehner refused to speculate on what the Senate would do and dismissed talk of a shutdown.

“Listen, there should be no conversation about shutting the government down,” the Ohio Republican said in response to a reporter’s question. “That’s not the goal here. Our goal here is to cut spending and to protect the American people from Obamacare. It’s that simple. There’s not interest on our part in shutting the government down.”

But the government will shut down on Oct. 1 if Congress cannot agree on a continuing resolution. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Obama administration officials have said they will not approve any measure that would defund or delay the implementation of the health care law, a major portion of which goes into effect on Oct. 1.

President Obama on Wednesday criticized the Republicans’ latest effort to repeal his signature domestic policy achievement by linking it to funding for government operations.

“What we now have is an ideological fight that's been mounted in the House of Representatives that says, we're not going to pass a budget and we will threaten a government shutdown unless we repeal the Affordable Care Act,” Obama told the Business Roundtable, a trade association.

The Office of Management and Budget on Wednesday issued guidance to agencies directing them to prepare for a possible government shutdown.

Steve Bell, senior director of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Economic Policy Project, said he thinks the Republican and Democratic House leadership ultimately will negotiate to avoid a government shutdown. But, “for the first time this year, I think they are going to cut it pretty close,” Bell said. The last time the government almost shut down -- with about an hour to spare -- was April 2011.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Republicans would unveil next week a plan to deal with the debt ceiling. If lawmakers do not raise the debt limit soon, the government could default on its bills as early as Oct. 18.

The GOP will attach to the debt limit bill provisions on tax reform and the Keystone XL oil pipeline, Cantor said.

The House was scheduled to be on recess next week, but Cantor’s comments suggest the leadership will cancel it.

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