House Republicans Refuse to Surrender
The government shutdown may have closed the Alamo* in San Antonio, but that's not stopping some Republicans on Capitol Hill from reenacting the 1836 fight to the death, according to one House Democrat. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) told The Daily Beast that in an effort to somehow delay or defund Obamacare, as a condition of passing a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government, “these folks [think they're] are at the Alamo, they’re going to shoot their way out or die trying.” House Republicans are continuing to insist that they will not pass “a clean CR” that would simply continue appropriate money at existing sequester levels for the next six weeks under any conditions.
As polling revealed that Americans overwhelmingly put the blame on the current standoff in Washington D.C. on the GOP and John McCain, the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, admitted to reporters on Monday night that “we can’t win.” On Tuesday, Republicans attempted yet another gambit in their effort to regain the political high ground, by introducing "mini-CRs" in the House to fund specific parts of the federal government. The three resolutions, which would have funded veterans benefits, national parks and museums, and the government of the District of Columbia, were introduced in the House under a suspension of the rules. This meant they required two-thirds majorities to pass, instead of a simple majority. All three failed.
This was part of a new strategy spearheaded by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who, with Ted Cruz, has been one of the leaders in the push to tie funding the government to defunding Obamacare. Lee told The Daily Beast Monday night that he was “pushing for a series of segmented funding bills that will keep the government funding in most areas.” Lee, who said he had been talking to House members “for a long time,” thought “if we got those passed in the House, I see no reason why some of those couldn’t pass in the Senate.”
The problem is that the bills had to be brought up in the House under a suspension. Subjecting them to a majority vote would have also allowed the bills to be subject to amendment, which could include a clean CR. The result was another defeat for House Republicans. They couldn’t even put vulnerable Democrats on the record as refusing to help veterans or fund national parks. After all, with a two-thirds majority needed for passage, every Democrat who needed political cover was able to vote with the GOP while the bills were still assured of failure.
With the Senate unyielding, House Republicans are now left with relatively few options to claim a victory. One is the Vitter Amendment, which would deny health care subsidies to members of Congress and their staff. Another option would be including the repeal of the medical device tax, a provision of Obamacare, which places a 2.3% tax on medical devices like artificial hips—an unpopular measure on both sides of the aisle. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the Senate majority whip, has expressed his willingness to consider a repeal of the tax as a provision of the CR. The issue with that is the tax is supposed to generate $30 billion over the next 10 years and no one wants to add to the deficit or propose an alternative tax.
Thus, back to the drawing board and back to the stalemate as Republicans in both chambers realize the predicament that they are in. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) told Jonathan Strong of the National Review, "The real problem is, we may have gotten ourselves into a position where we can’t budge on a clean CR and they can’t budge on Obamacare. Then what do you do?”
When Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) was asked Monday if he's talked with Ted Cruz since harshly criticizing him last week, he aptly reponded “sure, oh we talked about the Alamo.” Corker made clear he was joking, but the point stood. With no other good options available, save passing a clean CR, Republicans are preparing to die with their boots on.
*CORRECTION: The Alamo is a National Historic Landmark, it is not part of the San Antonio Missions National Historic Park and owned by the State of Texas. The Daily Beast regrets the error.