House Republicans driving the effort to permanently defund Obamacare on Thursday appeared to signal their willingness to compromise, suggesting they might accept a one-year delay of the health care law.
The House could vote as early as Friday on a must-pass budget bill that would keep the federal government open through mid-December but strip all funding for the implementation of Obamacare. GOP leaders, however, worry that the almost-certain failure of that bill in the Senate would force a government shutdown for which the public will blame Republicans.
That fear of a political backlash prompted Republican leaders to push instead for a one-year delay in the law's implementation, a move conservative defunders appeared unenthusiastic about until now.
“We have realized that the president and his party are not going to get rid of Obamacare, so we’re thinking that best thing we can do is delay this flawed law for the American people,” Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said. “The American people ask us to reach a compromise; I think [a one-year delay] is a really good compromise. We get to fund the government for an entire year. We get to fund the government at the appropriate levels by only delaying Obamacare. We’re not asking for a [government] shutdown.”
Labrador wasn't the only House Republican to mention the possibility of delaying rather than defunding Obamacare as GOP lawmakers lined up to show they've established a united front in the House and Senate. Just a day earlier, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, caused an uproar in the House when he conceded that Republicans don't have enough votes in a Democratically run Senate to pass defunding legislation.
“Let’s just do what the American people expect us to do: Let’s fund the government, and let’s delay the bill — delay a law that’s not ready,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said.
House Republicans plan to seek a one-year delay of Obamacare during negotiations with the White House over separate but equally critical legislation needed to increase the nation's debt limit. Delaying Obamacare could give divided Republicans a way out of a stalemate over defunding and help avoid a politically risky government shutdown.
The House is expected to vote Friday on a budget bill that would keep the government open through Dec. 15 but eliminate all funding for the implementation of Obamacare. That bill is expected to fail in the Senate when Democrats refuse to defund President Obama's signature legislative achievement.
What remains unclear is whether the House Republicans who discussed delaying Obamacare during Thursday’s news conference were purposely floating the option, or extemporaneously wandering off script.
Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., among the most ardent conservatives in the House, said told the Washington Examiner that by protecting Obamacare the president and Senate Democrats aren’t “protecting something that’s going to change peoples’ lives. We’re talking about a year postponement to allow this to get — from their vantage point to actually be workable [and] buy some time for us. It’s a win-win.”
But Salmon hedged when asked if he was expressing support for a delay if the defunding effort he now backs fails.
“I certainly don’t want to leave that out there yet,” Salmon said of his willingness to compromise. “Even if we pass a permanent defund, now, with all of the players that are involved, it’s going to be a subject for renegotiation a year from now.”