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Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) walks with House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) to a meeting with House Republicans on the
House Speaker John Boehner has many competing interests to satisfy as he tries to come up with a way to defund Obamacare, increase defense spending, cut domestic spending, and make the sequester levels of funding permanent, all without being responsible for shutting down the government. So far, it doesn't look like he's succeeding. By the end of the day Tuesday, Boehner will present a plan that attempts to fake out Senate Democrats and force any possibility of a shutdown into their court.

The plan reportedly is to pass what they're calling a "clean" continuing resolution bill for funding the government for the next three months that includes a separate House concurrent resolution to defund Obamacare. They would create a rule to govern debate on the bill that said the House wouldn't send the funding part of the bill over to the Senate until that body voted on the Obamacare defunding part of the bill. The Senate would vote down the defunding measure so they could go onto the spending bill. That would allow Republicans to declare that Senate Democrats "own" Obamacare, a threat that said Democrats can probably live with.

The proposal has gone over like a lead balloon with the far right. Club for Growth president Chris Chocola calls the proposal a "bad joke," and said "[t]rying to fool Republicans into voting to fund ObamaCare is even worse than offering a bill that deliberately funds it." Teabagger House members are also not mollified, still demanding a continuing resolution that defunds Obamacare. Eighty of them signed a letter to Boehner to that effect, and an aide told The Hill that they "are still expected to vote against any continuing resolution that does not defund ObamaCare."

But the Obamacare defunding might just be a sideshow for Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who have their eye on another prize: maintaining the sequester level of federal spending for everything but defense. Cantor told his caucus that this would be their victory, forcing the president to sign a continuing resolution that "wipes away all the increases he and congressional Democrats made while they were in charge and returns us to a pre-2008 level of discretionary spending.” Salon's Brian Beutler outlines this part of the plan Boehner and Cantor might decide to take.

The new fiscal year starts on October 1. To adhere to the debt limit deal, Congress would pass a CR appropriating $1.058 trillion — $552 billion for defense, $506 billion for non defense. Then, sequestration would automatically reduce that to an annualized rate of $967 billion.

The advantage off writing the CR this way is that if at any point Congress manages to agree on a plan to replace sequestration, discretionary spending will automatically increase to the levels agreed up on in 2011.

But GOP leaders keep hinting at writing the CR to reflect a maximum appropriation of $988 billion — the same amount the government is spending under sequestration right now.

The sequestration measure would then kick in to make the actual spending level $967 billion for the next year. The $21 billion difference between the appropriated $988 billion and the $967 billion limit would be plowed into defense spending, while cash-starved domestic programs would continue to have to function on their sequester-reduced budgets. Cute trick for Boehner, if he can pull it off. But Democrats are full aware of his plans, and are demanding a truly "clean" continuing resolution with "no funny business," according to an aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

If this is the path Boehner decides on, he also has to get it past his own Republicans, because he won't have any Democratic support. Given how devoted the extremists in his caucus are to really, truly defunding Obamacare (or at least trying to) he might not get that far, and he might have to shoulder responsibility for a shutdown fight anyway.


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Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 08:50 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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