Reporting Tim Kephart
WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – As Washington continues to head for a proverbial brick wall with government funding and the debt default, a schism in the Republican Party could be the key to keeping both the federal government in business and the nation from avoiding a debt default.
Tea party Republicans in both the House and Senate have forged ahead with a plan calling for Congress to refuse to fund the federal government to stop the Affordable Care Act before much of it is put into place in early October and by next year.
The plan, pushed by Florida Senator Marco Rubio and many others, calls for Republicans to refuse to pass any government funding unless the budget doesn’t include any funding for the ACA, which is also known as Obamacare.
However, as Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn pointed out, the plan is doomed to fail because most of the funding for the Affordable Care Act is mandatory funding and a budget standoff/government shutdown fight wouldn’t achieve the goal Senator Rubio and others want.
According to Politico, multiple key Republicans the site has spoken to believe the more conservative members “have got to give up their insistence that the party allow the government to shut down after September 30 if they don’t get their way on defunding Obamacare.”
Politico reported that Republican leaders in Washington are being told that a fight over government funding and a possible government shutdown would “look even more obstructionist and causes voters to worry about the effect a shutdown would have on their own finances.”
While the government shutdown fight may be retreating from the mainstream, it still has legs in many of the most conservative districts in the country.
According to theHill.com, “conservatives who back the strategy (government shutdown) said their spines have been stiffened by support at town hall meetings.” Part of the problem with a government shutdown would be it could backfire by stopping military pay, Social Security checks, and Medicare payments.
That’s why while some in the House are calling for the government shutdown to defund the Affordable Care Act, others are seeking to link stopping the Affordable Care Act funding to the upcoming debt default fight.
According to the National Review, the House GOP may be ready to give up on the possibility of a government shutdown and instead hold the debt limit hostage for their policy goals.
The debt limit was used as a hostage in 2011 when Congressional Republicans refused to raise the nation’s debt limit unless it got dollar for dollar cuts from the White House and the Senate. The ensuing fight and run up to the debt limit hurt the nation’s international credit rating and damaged the economic recovery from the Great Recession.
Washington Post policy wonk Ezra Klein described a debt limit default fight thusly, “Trading a government shutdown for a debt-ceiling breach is like trading the flu for septic shock. And (Speaker John) Boehner knows it.”
Speaker Boehner said in the past that he will not jeopardize the full faith and credit of the federal government with a debt default. But, he’s in a politically tenuous position.
If Boehner refuses to let the country default on its debt, he position as speaker will likely be challenged and there’s not a guarantee he’d keep his position of power. Plus, to get a debt limit passed, he’d need the full support of Democrats and thus likely violate the Hastert Rule.
It all sets up for tumultuous end of September that could fundamentally reshape both political parties and the nation’s economy and health care.