Obama rejects linking debt limit to defunding healthcare law

Sept. 19, 2013 at 10:57 AM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- The Obama administration Thursday rejected a House Republican move to tie defunding the healthcare law to funding the ongoing functions of the U.S. government.

A statement from the Office and Management and Budget said President Obama would veto the bill if it reaches his desk. But the statement said the administration "is willing to support a short-term continuing resolution" to keep the government functioning.

"The administration strongly opposes House passage of H.J. Res. 59, making continuing appropriations for fiscal year 2014 and for other purposes, because it advances a narrow ideological agenda that threatens our economy and the interests of the middle class," the statement said. "The resolution would defund the Affordable Care Act, denying millions of hard-working middle class families the security of affordable health coverage.

"If the president were presented with H.J. Res. 59, he would veto the bill."

The statement added that the administration "is willing to support a short-term continuing resolution to allow critical government functions to operate without interruption and looks forward to working with the Congress on appropriations legislation for the remainder of the fiscal year that preserves critical national priorities, protects national security, and makes investments to spur economic growth and job creation for years to come."

The price to keep U.S. agencies open after this month will be stripping Obama's healthcare law of any financing, House Speaker John Boehner said.

"The law's a train wreck," the Ohio Republican told reporters. "It's time to protect American families from this unworkable law."

GOP leaders said the House would vote Friday on a bill to fund federal agencies for the first 2 1/2 months of the fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, but strip all health-law funding.

Boehner made the announcement after being told by House Republican Conference conservatives in an hourlong closed-door meeting his speaker's job was on the line if he didn't take the hard stand, The New York Times said.

"Today was a step forward, and a win for the American people," Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., told the Times.

Graves' "defund Obamacare" push has the support of 80 House members, enough to dictate the outcome, the Times said.

Boehner's team also announced it would challenge Obama further by demanding a one-year delay in the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, next month when Congress considers granting expanded borrowing authority to the Treasury.

Without that authority, the federal government risks a first-ever default on the nation's nearly $17 trillion debt.

Boehner's capitulation to the right was a sharp reversal from his earlier position.

"Do you want to risk the full faith and credit of the U.S. government over Obamacare? That's a very tough argument to make," he told "The Sean Hannity Show" March 13.

Moments after Boehner announced his intentions, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said GOP "anarchists" were abusing the Senate by insisting on votes about delaying or ending the healthcare law.

"Bipartisanship is a thing of the past. Now all we do is 'gotcha' legislation," Reid said.

Senate Democrats said the House plan to strip the health-law funding was dead in the water.

"We are not going to blink," The Wall Street Journal quoted Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., as saying.

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