House Passes Temporary Budget That Defunds Obamacare

Posted: Sep 20, 2013 2:35 PM

Chapter one of the quixotic "defund" saga is officially in the books. The US House of Representatives voted 239-189 today to pass a stop-gap budget -- or "continuing resolution" -- that would fund the federal government for roughly three months starting on October 1. It would also strip funding for the president's so-called "Affordable" Care Act. Just two hyper-endangered Democrats voted with the GOP, with one Republican voting to oppose the continuing resolution process. The Obamacare defunding provision is dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled Senate, but House Republicans are hoping to force votes in the upper chamber that could make some vulnerable incumbents sweat:

In a display of the raw politics of the battle, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia called out Senate Democrats facing re-election next year by name, asking how Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska and Kay Hagan of North Carolina will vote on the House proposal. "It's up to Senate Democrats to follow House Republicans and show some responsibility," Cantor said.

(Update: The NRSC is already turning up the heat). Here's Speaker Boehner, flanked by cheering GOP colleagues, throwing down the gauntlet:

"The American people don't want the government shut down, and they don't want Obamacare."

The next step is a battle in the Senate, where Ted Cruz has announced that he'll offer an old-school "standing" filibuster against the Democrats' version, during which he and other colleagues will inveigh against the healthcare law. Senate Republicans won't have the numbers to adopt the House-passed CR, and it's very likely that enough of the GOP conference will decline to sustain Cruz's filibuster, which could lead to a shut down. Polling shows that such an outcome would be deeply unpopular with Republicans shouldering most of the blame. Earlier in the week, I sketched out my best guess on how this confrontation will ultimately be resolved, so I won't belabor the point. This National Journal story details Boehner's strategy moving forward, which strikes me as sensible. Let's turn our attention to three pieces of news regarding the law Republicans remain determined to repeal: (1) The Wall Street Journal published a report that appears to corroborate the anecdotal evidence Instapundit posted yesterday regarding the ongoing Obamacare implementation "trainwreck" (via Avik Roy):

The exchanges are set to roll out on October 1, in less than two weeks. In other words, it’s crunch time. And in this morning’s Wall Street Journal comes word that the exchange software, for which the government has spent upwards of $88 million, still can’t correctly calculate the amount of subsidies that an individual applicant is eligible for. “There’s a blanket acknowledgment that rates are being calculated incorrectly,” one senior insurance executive told the WSJ. “Our tech and operations people are very concerned about the problems they’re seeing and the potential of them to stick around.” The WSJ article was authored by Christopher Weaver, Timothy Martin, and Jeniffer Corbett Dooren. “If not resolved by the Oct. 1 launch date,” they report, “the problems could affect consumers in 36 states where the federal government is running all or part of the exchanges.

That is a major "glitch" that could throw the open enrollment process into complete chaos. Roy also notes that the federal government has again delayed its own deadline for making coverage rates available to the public:

However, we are still waiting on more than 30 states to release their pricing information, because that information is being closely held by—you guessed it—the federal government; specifically, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I’d been told by Congressional sources that HHS had been saying that this data would be out on September 19. But now, sources tell me this data won’t be ready until October 1, if even then.

That's right: By the time millions of Americans attempt to enroll in Obamacare in less than two weeks, citizens in dozens of states may still be in the dark about the rates they'll be asked to pay. Incredible. (2) Home Depot has announced it's dropping coverage for 20,000 workers and dumping them into the aforementioned Obamacare exchanges. Quote: "If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.” (3) A new (typically-Obama-friendly) Washington Post/ABC News poll reflects what every other national survey has shown in recent days: Obamacare is unpopular, its implementation is even more so, and Americans remain worried and under-informed about what's coming:

UPDATE - Your quote of the day. The trainwreck is hitting home: "Nobody is going to say we're not starting on October 1," says Joel Ario, who previously oversaw health exchanges at HHS, "but in some situations, you may see a redefinition of what 'start' means."

UPDATE - Wait...what? Cruz wants to filibuster the House-passed bill to prevent it from coming to the floor, where Reid could change it. David Fredosso skewers this silliness in your must-read of the day.

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