WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – The Republican-led House of Representatives passed a continuing resolution bill that sets up a government shutdown and possibly worse in the coming weeks thanks to a plan first pushed by Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
The House passed a bill that will fund the government at sequestration levels but seeks to defund discretionary spending of the Affordable Care Act. The move by the House ended weeks of pushes by roughly 10 percent of the members to shut down the government if the ACA wasn't ended.
Senator Rubio hailed the House's action, even though his allies in recent days have admitted the bill has no chance of ever making it past the Democratically-led Senate or President Barack Obama's desk.
"The American people support defunding ObamaCare and oppose shutting down the government," Senator Rubio said in a statement. "The House voted today to follow the will of the American people and the Senate should now follow suit."
Rubio's statement on the "will of the American people" is not quite clear based on recent polling on the issue of a government shutdown and the Affordable Care Act.
According to the latest Pew Research poll on the Affordable Care Act, 53 percent disapprove of the law. However, 27 percent of that group said lawmakers should "do what they can to make the law work as well as possible."
On the other hand, 23 percent of the 53 percent want lawmakers to do everything they can to make the law fail. Further, according to the Pew Poll, 43 percent of Republicans and Republican leaners want their representatives to make the law fail; while 37 percent said they want leaders to make the law work as well as possible.
Still, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that Republican voters, especially primary voters who have driven the party farther to the right, are willing to risk the political fallout from a government shutdown and possible debt default to enforce their will over the rest of the country.
The move by the House to pass the defund Obamacare bill puts the ball squarely in the court of Senators Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee who now have to prove they have the mettle to deliver the same sort of results demanded from the House.
The problem for Rubio, Lee, and Cruz is that no matter how much they may say; there is no way the minority in the Senate can defund Obamacare.
Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla) asked the Congressional Research Service to investigate the possibility of defunding Obamacare through a continuing resolution. What Senator Coburn's office found was that the lapse in spending will only impact discretionary spending, while the ACA's spending comes from mandatory spending.
In addition, the White House has the ability to shift extra funding around to meet any possible shortfalls due to a government shutdown, according to the Washington Post. The White House can use leftover money from last year, mandatory public health funding created by the law and others, according to talkingpointsmemo.com.
Part of the fear for Republicans trying to stop the Affordable Care Act isn't that it will fail on its own, but that the law will succeed at several levels. If the law works, even partially, then millions of Americans will have better health care coverage which would make overturning the law politically perilous.
Therefore, the only way tea party legislators see left to stop the law is to force a government shutdown that won't stop the law.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid already said the House's bill was dead on arrival in the Senate. Senator Reid has the option of taking out the defunding provision, passing the spending at sequestration levels and then sending the bill back to the House.
If Reid can do this, which would require 60 votes to overcome any filibuster, it would put House Speaker John Boehner in a politically untenable position.
Speaker Boehner would have to decide whether to proceed with a government shutdown, or turn to Congressional Democrats for help passing the continuing resolution without conservative votes. Most likely, there wouldn't be enough votes even with Democratic help to pass the spending bill.
In addition to the shutdown, the House legislation prepared for a debt default by ordering the government to pay foreign creditors and Social Security recipients first if the U.S. hits the debt limit, according to talkingpointsmemo.com.
Breaching the debt limit, almost all economists agree, would likely be catastrophic not only to the U.S. economy, but also the global economy. It could shift borrowing costs for decades and challenge the widespread belief the U.S. dollar is the most stable currency in the world.
Many economists have said the potential for a global depression is significantly higher if the U.S. breaches the debt limit. Speaker Boehner has said multiple times in the past that he won't allow the debt limit to be breached.
But, the first step of the plan first hatched by Senators Rubio, Lee, and Cruz is now in place. The next step in the Senate will not go in favor of the House or Rubio, Lee, and Cruz. Where things go after that is anyone's guess.
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