* House Speaker Boehner predicts win on Friday
* House bill would deny funds for Obama healthcare law
* Senate expected to halt Obamacare provision
By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON, Sept 19 Republicans in the U.S.
House of Representatives on Thursday plowed ahead with a bill to
gut President Barack Obama's healthcare law while temporarily
funding other government programs, ignoring a warning from the
White House that the measure would be vetoed.
The bill, which would keep the government running through
Dec. 15 and avert shutdowns with the start of the new fiscal
year on Oct. 1, cleared a procedural hurdle on Thursday,
setting up debate and likely passage on Friday.
"We'll deliver a big victory in the House tomorrow," a
confident House Speaker John Boehner predicted.
Several of Boehner's fellow Republicans in the U.S. Senate,
however, have rejected the House plan as "foolish," a "silly
effort" and one has described it as "the dumbest idea I've ever
The administration wasted no time in formally announcing
that it would not allow the Republican-controlled House to
destroy the Obamacare healthcare law by denying funds.
In a terse statement, the White House said the House bill
would be vetoed "because it advances a narrow ideological agenda
that threatens our economy and the interests of the middle
class." It went on to say that "millions of hard-working middle
class families" would be denied affordable health coverage.
Separately on Thursday, House Republicans took another step
in their deficit-reduction drive by again defying an Obama veto
threat and passing a bill to cut $40 billion over 10 years from
the food stamp program that helps feed the poor.
Boehner declined to say what the House might do if the
Senate next week, as expected, rips out the Obamacare defunding
provision and sends back to the House a bill to simply keep the
government operating through Dec. 15.
But some lawmakers and aides said House Republicans were
considering several options that could further delay passage of
the legislation with the Sept. 30 deadline looming.
This is the latest round in a series of battles Obama faces
with Congress over the next few months in what has become an
unending standoff over running Washington's most basic
operations, from the FBI and national parks to education and
The Dec. 15 cut-off date for the funding measure guarantees
yet another struggle around Christmas time, when Democrats and
Republicans were to fight over whether to scrap across-the-board
Besides the spending bill, Congress and the White House have
to either agree in October or early November on a measure to
increase U.S. borrowing authority or plunge the country into its
first credit default.
House Republicans might unveil their debt limit increase
proposal by the middle of next week. It is likely to include
approval of the controversial Keystone oil pipeline from Canada
to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and tax and energy initiatives.
REMINDERS OF 2011 MARKET SWOON
In 2011, as Republicans and Democrats fought over spending
cuts and a debt limit hike, U.S. financial markets swooned
because of all the uncertainty created by the inability of the
two parties to work together. Between July 7 and Aug. 9 of that
year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average blue-chip stocks fell
This year, the fight over spending cuts and debt limit will
be just as heated and so far, there are no signs of
negotiations, but only some barbed comments by both sides.
"While the president is happy to negotiate with Vladimir
Putin (on Syria), he won't engage with the Congress on a plan
that deals with the deficits that threaten our economy," Boehner
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney offered a different
view. "We had a lot of constructive meetings (with Republicans
this year), but what we never saw, from even the Republicans who
said they were interested in common ground, was a
Meanwhile, Republican Senator Ted Cruz, a darling of the
Tea Party movement who is thought to be weighing a 2016 run for
president, threatened a prolonged fight over the spending bill
when it is debated in the Senate next week.
The bill is expected to win little to no Democratic support
and nearly unanimous backing from conservatives.
One particularly controversial provision of the bill would
instruct the Treasury Department to pay bondholders and Social
Security retirement benefits even if Congress fails to increase
the government's $16.7 trillion borrowing cap that will soon be
breached. But money would not be available to pay for many
government programs, including military salaries and health care
benefits for the elderly.
Earlier this week Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said, "There
is no way of knowing the irrevocable damage such an approach
would have on our economy and financial markets."
Assuming the House passes the Republican-backed bill to
defund Obamacare and provide temporary government funds, it will
be significantly altered by the Democratic majority in the
Democrats plan to delete the House's Obamacare provision and
send the temporary spending bill back to the House for passage
before the Sept. 30 deadline when the current fiscal year ends.
Senate Democrats believe that more than a dozen Republicans
in the chamber could back them since they are on record opposing
linking Obamacare to keeping the government open.
Among them is Senator John McCain of Arizona who told CNN:
"We're not going to defund Obamacare in the Senate."