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Lawmakers Ponder 3-Part Plan

September 14, 2013
By MIKE MYER , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Keeping the United States out of direct involvement in the Syrian civil war may be the easier of the two big jobs facing Congress this month. The other involves a take-no-prisoners battle - figuratively speaking, of course - right here at home.

Rightly worried about the prospect of war in Syria, many Americans may not have thought much about what else is on lawmakers' plates. Showdowns over both deficit spending and Obamacare will occur during the next two weeks.

By the end of this month, the federal government's authority to spend money runs out. If it is not extended, there will be a government "shutdown."

Way back in civics class, you probably were taught Congress handles spending by approving appropriations bills and budgets. Washington has become so dysfunctional that isn't true anymore.

Until earlier this year, the Senate had not approved a budget bill in four years.

In March, by a vote of 50-49, that body agreed to an absurd budget proposal that was rejected in the House of Representatives.

Even if agreement could be reached among conservatives and liberals and even if President Barack Obama signaled he would approve, there is not enough time for appropriations bills and a budget to be enacted before the end of the month.

That leaves Congress where it finds itself frequently, in need of agreement on a "continuing resolution." A CR in effect allows the government to continue spending money without a formal budget.

Obama and liberals want a CR that not only allows them to spend at current rates, but that also rescinds the so-called "sequester" limits.

Many conservatives want to take the opportunity to "defund" Obamacare so it can't be implemented - or at least to delay it.

It may appear that Obama and liberals such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada hold all the cards. If the Republican-led House sends a CR liberals dislike to the Senate, lawmakers there don't have to approve it. Then, come Oct. 1, they can score big PR points by blaming conservatives for a government shutdown.

Some conservatives want to avoid a shutdown for nonpolitical reasons. They fear unpleasant repercussions such as delays in mailing out Social Security checks and in paying members of the armed forces.

Thoughtful conservatives in the House may have a plan. It has three parts:

1. A CR, probably covering spending for a year beginning Oct. 1.

2. A one-year delay in implementing Obamacare.

3. Rescinding "sequester" spending cuts.

Liberal lawmakers and the president would, of course, agree to a CR. They'd love to get the sequester rescinded.

But to get those things, they'd have to agree to a one-year postponement of Obamacare.

Reasoning among some conservatives is that rescinding the sequester would cost the government $80 billion to $90 billion during the coming year - but that delaying Obamacare would save about the same amount.

Obama, on his own initiative, already has postponed implementation of some costly health care requirements for businesses - but that leaves millions of Americans left holding the bag, still mandated to obtain government-approved insurance. A one-year delay would help them and should be politically popular.

But here's something else the three-part plan accomplishes:

If enacted, it would bring Obamacare and government spending back on stage around Oct. 1, 2014 - just before congressional elections that November.

During the coming year, more and more Americans may learn enough about Obamacare to decide they don't want it. By Oct. 1, 2014, it could be easier for conservative lawmakers to kill the law entirely.

Then there's the November 2014 elections, during which there's a good chance Republicans will gain control of the Senate.

Given political realities, the three-part plan is a good one. Look for it or something like it next week.

Myer can be reached at mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

 
 

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