WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) vowed Wednesday to push ahead with a bill to defund Obamacare or shut down the government -- an effort that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) panned as an "absurd" ploy inspired by tea party "anarchists."
With Congress facing a Sept. 30 deadline to figure out how to keep paying for the federal government, Boehner said in a Capitol Hill news conference that defunding President Barack Obama's health care reform was a key part of that effort.
"We're going to continue to do everything we can to repeal the president's failed health care law," Boehner said. "This week, the House will pass the CR [continuing resolution] that locks the sequester savings in and defunds Obamacare."
Many mainstream Republicans have repeatedly slammed such an approach as "stupid," and Boehner himself has tried to avoid linking Obamacare to a potential government shutdown. But after a summer break in which tea party leaders toured the country pushing for the defunding bid -- and Boehner failed to find a compromise -- the Republican House leader has decided to push ahead.
"We've got a lot of divergent opinions in the caucus," Boehner acknowledged, but suggested that tea party demands were still leading the way. "I was here in the Gingrich era. He had a little plaque that was in his office. It's a management model: 'Listen, learn, help and lead.' We listened to our colleagues over the last week. We have a plan that they're happy with. We're going forward."
But Obama is expected to veto any bill that defunds his signature domestic accomplishment, and Reid has insisted such a measure would not pass the Senate, guaranteeing an upcoming government shutdown.
Reid hammered those Republicans insisting on such a path, suggesting they would like a government shutdown.
"We're now waiting to see what the House of Representatives is going to do, how absurd it's going to be, what they're going to send us," Reid said Wednesday. "We know it's going to be something really strange and weird because the speaker has to do everything he can to mold a piece of legislation that will meet the needs of the tea party -- the anarchists -- and I say that without any equivocation. They do not want government to work on any level."
Boehner also signaled that the House GOP would wage an equally determined fight over raising the nation's debt limit, which the Treasury Department estimates will be reached in October. If the debt limit is not raised, the federal government will not have the authority to pay for all the spending that Congress has authorized and could be forced to default.
"For decades, Congresses and presidents have used the debt limit for legislation to cut spending, and even President Obama worked with us two years ago in the debt limit negotiations to put controls on spending," Boehner said. "This year's not going to be any different."
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.
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