Updated: At 3:30 pm with new information
WASHINGTON • Five days before government agencies send workers home, House Republicans are fashioning a new bargaining stance that would delay the Affordable Care Act for a year and press a laundry list of GOP-favored initiatives.
The effort could serve to placate ardent conservatives who have, in effect, taken control of the GOP-run House.
But it almost certainly will take Congress up to the midnight Monday deadline for a partial government shutdown, and perhaps beyond.
By tying a one-year delay of the new health insurance law to an increase in the nation's debt ceiling , the House GOP plan would remove 'Obamacare' from the shutdown deliberation. That would enable the House to easily pass a measure to extend government funding in the new fiscal year.
Of course, nothing in this dysfunctional Congress is easy. The White House has no intention of delaying the insurance law for a year.
And even if the House extracts concessions from the Obama administration on other matters, Washington would face yet another consequential deadline in mid-October when the government runs out of borrowing power.
Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, said after a House GOP caucus today that leaders were finishing legislation with proposals “that we think that are bound together by growth and economic development, and are job-related.”
The package would include a host of initiatives from tax reform to reduced government regulations to approval of the long-debated Keystone XL pipeline.
“The American people don't want a shutdown. But you know what? The American people are ready for a fight,”said Wagner, noting polls showing diminishing support for the Affordable Care Act.
“The president is willing to negotiate with everybody form the Russians to the Syrians to the Iranians. But he won't sit down with 'we the people',” Wagner asserted in an interview.
Meanwhile, the Senate moved toward a Saturday vote that by all accounts will strip provisions de-funding the insurance law from House-passed legislation that keeps the government running.
That would give the fractious House just two days to come up with a solution aimed at securing 217 votes needed to appropriate money for the government to operate.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said today.“Everybody knew that the House bill was not going to end up on the president's desk signed by the president with Obamacare being eliminated,”
“I think the better ground to fight on, frankly, is the debt ceiling, often used as a debate about issues that exceed whether or not we're going to pay our bills,” he said.
Blunt, a Senate GOP leader with long-held alliances in the House, said he expects to be involved in helping the two chambers reach an accord.
He noted the difficulty defending an interruption of government services, particularly when it involves the military.
He recalled telling an audience on this week that he planned to do "everything I can so that next Tuesday, people in the military get their paychecks. And child-care centers on military bases are open. And military families are able to make their mortgage payments.”
Speaking to reporters today, he added: “All those things are a problem if people don't get paid, and it's a problem that the Congress won't stand up to very long.”
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said on the Senate floor this afternoon that people in the military “will be paid, but their paychecks could be delayed.”
He complained bitterly that two GOP senators — Ted Cruz, of Texas, and Mike Lee, of Utah — are preventing the Senate from speeding up the legislative process.
“They are playing high-stakes poker with other people's money,” Durbin said.
“At this point now, it is on the shoulders of those two senators, those two Tea Party-controlled senators.”