The House Prepares a Response

by Robert Costa

As the Senate moves toward a vote on a modified version of the House’s continuing resolution, House Republicans are plotting a response. But nothing has been finalized, and the leadership is treading carefully.

At least that’s the message coming out of a closed-door meeting at the Capitol, where House Republican leaders huddled for an hour on Wednesday.

According to sources in the room, the leadership is trying to avert a shutdown and rally conservatives for the debt-limit battle. To do both, they plan to fight until the eleventh hour on the CR, but eventually ask Republicans to fund the government and focus on the debt limit.

It’ll be a tricky dance, and the dynamics are fluid. But here’s how my sources expect the drama to unfold: First, the House leadership will unveil its debt-limit legislation on Thursday, hoping to stoke enthusiasm in the ranks. The reason for an early rollout: the leadership doesn’t expect an immediate embrace.

As they talk up their debt-limit plan, the leadership will also try to get a CR through. After the Senate cuts out the defunding language from the House’s CR, the House will send a revised CR with another demand back to the Senate. One option is a one-year delay of Obamacare’s individual mandate, or a related health-care gambit. House Republicans will champion that revised CR, but it’ll face a quick death in the Reid-controlled Senate.

At that point, as the Monday deadline nears, the leadership will likely move to pass a clean CR in order to avoid a shutdown. To do that, they’ll need conservatives to abandon the CR and make the debt limit the battleground — a difficult task. Speaker John Boehner may even pass a short-term CR as those discussions continue, looking to buy time.

So, as one aide says, it’ll be a “ping-pong match” and show votes for a few days (or weeks), followed by some hard strategic decisions for Republicans. Boehner wants to fund the government, and he wants to push for debt-limit concessions, but he first has to balance the House’s many blocs.