WASHINGTON -- Moments after they emerged from a Saturday morning meeting, having agreed to another government funding bill that chips away at the president’s health care law, House Republicans began openly lobbying conservative Democratic senators to embrace their approach.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), deputy whip of the House, characterized the atmosphere in the meeting as in "total support" of a bill that would delay Obamacare for one year while fully repealing the law’s medical device tax. He wouldn’t dismiss the likelihood of the strategy succeeding, despite previous skepticism of attempts to fully defund Obamacare in a continuing resolution.
The new approach, he argued, was different because it would be difficult for red state Democrats to resist. Cole pointed specifically to comments from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) that were critical of the Affordable Care Act.
"We know at least some Senate Democrats are anxious for or support a delay ... the medical device tax has already gotten 70-odd votes over there," Cole said.
Manchin was the main source for House GOP members' political hopes on Saturday morning. In addition to Cole, a number of other Republicans spotlighted the West Virginia Democrat as a potential "yes" vote for the new House CR.
"I'm with Joe Manchin and he says that he will support something like this," said Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.).
But as Manchin’s office noted, he had said that he supported a one-year delay only in the health care law’s individual mandate, not the entire law. He also said that pursuit of such a delay was not worth shutting down the government.
Jonathan Kott, a spokesman for the senator, meanwhile, told The Huffington Post on Saturday that Manchin would not support a one-year delay in the law as envisioned under the new House CR bill.
There are other potential, conservative-leaning or red-state Democrats who were publicly lobbied by House Republicans on Saturday. Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), for one, made entreaties to his home-state senator, Kay Hagan.
"I'll bet she doesn't want this thing implemented during her reelection, secretly,” he said. “She won't admit that."
"What will move this is, if there are other Democrat senators who put pressure on Reid," he added. "Again, I think there are a number of Democrats who secretly want a one-year delay."
Rep. Scott Rigell (R-Va.), meanwhile, argued that there is too much pressure from within the Democratic Party on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to not negotiate off of the new House CR bill. To do otherwise, he said, would be politically unreasonable.
"I think there is a way forward here, and it's really going to be up to Harry Reid," said Rigell. "What Harry Reid is saying is, there will be no compromise? So he put himself in a bit of a box, and that makes him no different than Ted Cruz, now doesn’t it?"
But the likelihood that Reid would budge or that Hagan, Manchin and other conservative-leaning Democrats would break en masse to support the new House CR offer seemed unlikely, at least as of early Saturday afternoon. The party stood together when the debate was squarely about defunding the health-care law. And leadership aides expressed little concern that that would change when the debate shifted to whether or not there should be a year delay.
UPDATE: Surprising virtually no one, Majority Leader Reid announced early Saturday afternoon that the House CR was a non-starter.
Today’s vote by House Republicans is pointless. As I have said repeatedly, the Senate will reject any Republican attempt to force changes to the Affordable Care Act through a mandatory government funding bill or the debt ceiling. Furthermore, President Obama has stated that he would veto such measures if they ever reached his desk.
To be absolutely clear, the Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical device tax. After weeks of futile political games from Republicans, we are still at square one: Republicans must decide whether to pass the Senate’s clean CR, or force a Republican government shutdown.
Senate Democrats have shown that we are willing to debate and vote on a wide range of issues, including efforts to improve the Affordable Care Act. We continue to be willing to debate these issues in a calm and rational atmosphere. But the American people will not be extorted by Tea Party anarchists.
UPDATE: 9/29, 1:00 p.m. -- "Senator Hagan isn't taking political advice from the people willing to harm servicemembers and seniors just to score political points off a shutdown," said Hagan spokeswoman Sadie Weiner.
Michael McAuliff and Luke Johnson contributed reporting.