House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Thursday that a bill to reopen the government must chip away at Obamacare, despite growing calls from his own members for a "clean" funding bill with no such strings attached.
A reporter pointed out that at least 17 House Republicans have now said they'd vote for a clean bill, which is the required number to pass such a measure, with the support of all Democratic members. In fact, the number has hit at least 20, but Cantor was uninterested. The reporter then asked Cantor why House leadership would not bring a funding bill up for a vote and fight Obamacare within the context of the debt limit.
"The speaker and I have both said that the Republican position is we believe we should fund this government, but we also believe that there should not be any special treatment for anyone, and that is why we believe the right solution to that is to provide for a delay of the individual mandate under the health care law," Cantor said.
"And in the same vein and perhaps with even more intensity, no way in the world should members of Congress get special treatment under that law either," he added. "So all we've got to do is come together, and we can iron out the differences."
The majority leader was addressing reporters at a press conference Thursday where several House Republicans who are doctors or nurses donned white coats and spoke of the potential impact if funding isn't restored to the National Institutes of Health. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) even teared up while discussing the sick children she encountered in her career as a nurse.
The House passed three spending bills Wednesday that would restore funding to select parts of the government, including the NIH, parks and museums and the District of Columbia. A couple dozen Democrats joined Republicans to pass the targeted measures, which are considered dead on arrival in the Senate and face a veto threat from the White House.
Senate Democrats have mocked a piecemeal approach and argued that House Republicans are pitting children with cancer against children in Head Start programs. President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) have continued to call on House GOP leadership to allow a vote on the clean bill that cleared the Senate last week and would keep the government funded at sequester levels through Nov. 15.
Cantor questioned whether every House Democrat would support a clean continuing resolution at the House-passed $986 billion topline.
"This assumption that everyone is operating on, that somehow there is unanimity on the Democratic side, that they would support a [continuing resolution to fund the government] at sequester levels, is an assumption that I question," he said. "Again, we're trying to find the things that we can agree on in common where there is a majority vote in both houses."
House Democrats have said they are prepared to accept a short-term bill that funds the government at sequester levels, which is already considered a concession to Republicans. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has guaranteed the votes from her caucus to get to the required 218 to pass a clean continuing resolution.
Democrats even tried to force a vote on the Senate bill Wednesday but were blocked by Republicans.
A reporter also asked Cantor if he stills gets paid during a government shutdown. Rory Cooper, a spokesman for Cantor, tweeted that the Virginia Republican has asked that his pay be withheld while the government is closed.