The high-stakes confrontation between House Republicans and the White House over the Affordable Care Act could go down to the last minute, says Political Junkie Ken Rudin.
Last Friday, the House passed a continuing funding resolution that would keep the federal government operating past Oct. 1 but would delete all funding for President Obama's cherished health-care law. The resolution now goes to the Democratic-controlled Senate, which will probably delete the ACA's deletion.
During his weekly visit to The Daily Circuit, Rudin said that Senate Majority Leader "Harry Reid is going to take out that language about defunding Obamacare, send it back to [House Speaker] John Boehner, and then what does John Boehner do? We still don't know what he's going to do."
Rudin said that what's happening now is about political theater, strategy and tactics. Tactically, Reid may try to run down the clock to the Oct. 1 deadline for the funding resolution, to limit Boehner's options in the face of an impending government shutdown.
"It's very possible that we may not see a Reid amendment putting back that Obamacare money until Saturday or Sunday. Then it goes back to the House on Sunday," and the deadline is midnight Monday, Rudin pointed out. "It gives Boehner very little wiggle room and very little opportunity to come up with a new strategy."
But the clock isn't the only factor constraining Boehner. Any concessions he might try to extract from Senate Democrats — for example, on entitlement spending — could fail to win the support of his own party.
"There are some absolutists in Congress who say, if it's going to have any money for Obamacare, I don't care what other concessions we get out of it," Rudin said. "If there's money for Obamacare we're not going to support it."
Rudin suggested that the Republicans would have a strong case if they did seek such concessions.
"That seems to be the Republicans' best argument ... that we can't keep spending like this. We can't keep borrowing like this," he said. But some of them are determined to get the health-care law, no matter what.
"This is President Obama's signature domestic achievement," Rudin said. "This is what President Obama is most proud of. And again, this is the House of Representatives. It's hard, when you only control the House — and I'm not diminishing the fact that the Republicans control the House, but when you only control the House, and the opposition/the Democrats have the White House and the Senate — it seems a little presumptuous to say, well, I'm sorry, but it's going to be our way or the highway when it comes to defunding Obamacare."