Wednesday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., unveiled his version of the stopgap spending bill, which would keep the government running through Nov. 15. He set in motion a key vote on Friday that promises to expose the divide between Cruz and more pragmatic Republicans. Senate passage of the spending bill — stripped of the Obamacare provision — was expected no later than Saturday.
The simplest thing for Republicans to do would be to accept the Senate bill and send it to the White House for Obama's signature, a prospect that's unappealing to Republicans because it would make them look like they're surrendering. Boehner originally preferred a plan to deliver to Obama a stopgap funding bill without the Obamacare provisions.
Now, GOP leaders are exploring adding face-saving options — like the repeal of a tax on medical devices, which many Democrats also oppose — to the stopgap spending bill. There's also sentiment to take away the health insurance subsidy awarded lawmakers now that they'll be required to purchase health care on Obamacare exchanges.
The House is expected to approve a measure this week allowing the Treasury to borrow freely for another year, although that legislation, too, would include a provision to carry out the Republican campaign against Obamacare. While no final decisions have been made, party officials said a one-year delay was likely to be added, rather than the full-fledged defunding that is part of the spending bill awaiting action in the Senate.
The GOP's demands on the debt limit involves far less dramatic spending cuts than Republicans demanded from Obama in a debt showdown two years. Then, Republicans extracted $2.1 trillion in cuts over a decade for a similar increase in the borrowing cap. Now, GOP leaders are mulling a 14-month borrowing increase that would increase the debt ceiling by almost $1 trillion but are considering only modest cuts, like an increase in the contribution federal workers make to their pensions.
Shutdown-averting stopgap spending bills traditionally have been steered clear of these kinds of battles for fear of a politically damaging shutdown. But with the new health care law poised to enroll millions of people into Obamacare starting Oct. 1, there's a new urgency among opponents to pull out all the stops to try to derail it.
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