KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Budget Battle Flashpoints Highlight Debt And Health Law Issues

News outlets report on what could happen in the next eight days as congressional leaders and the White House posture around the looming government shutdown.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: 1 Week From Potential Shutdown, Congress And White House Weigh Options To Dodge Stalemate
The unyielding political posturing comes one week before Congress reaches an Oct. 1 deadline to dodge any interruptions in government services. While work continues on a temporary spending bill, a potentially more devastating separate deadline looms a few weeks later when the government could run out of money to pay its bills. Lawmakers are considering separate legislation that would let the United States avoid a first-ever default on its debt obligations. House Republicans are planning legislation that would attach a 1-year delay in the health care law in exchange for ability to increase the nation’s credit limit of $16.7 trillion (9/23).

The Washington Post: Shutdown Countdown: What The Next Eight Days Could Bring
On Friday, the House passed a measure that would keep the government running through mid-December. But it came with what Democrats consider a poison pill: It defunds President Obama’s signature health-care law, known as Obamacare. There is no way whatsoever — think pigs flying — that the Senate will agree to the House plan. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said the House bill was "dead," then for emphasis added: "Dead." That sets up eight days of brinkmanship between the Republican House and the Democratic Senate and White House, leading to midnight Sept. 30, when much of the government will shut down if there's no deal. Leaders on Capitol Hill expect the face-off to go right up to the deadline, if not beyond. Below is a day-by-day look at how it’s all likely to play out — with the caveat that events can change quickly (Kane, 9/22).

The Washington Post: Fight Over Spending, Debt And Health Law Has Risks For Republicans And Obama
The strategy to tie defunding of Obamacare to the government-funding bill has divided Republicans, producing an extraordinary spectacle of intraparty second-guessing and pointed criticism. The debate highlights a fundamental schism within the Republican Party. Can Republicans cater to their conservative base and still find ways to expand their appeal across the electorate in order to win back the White House in the future? Are the two mutually compatible or mutually exclusive? There are reasons Republicans feel emboldened to go after Obama’s health-care law. Three years after he signed the measure, the president has clearly failed in the public relations effort to win support for the Affordable Care Act (Dan Balz, 9/21).

Politico: Ted Cruz Scrambles To Salvage Strategy
After months of fiery rhetoric, Cruz and his allies are scrambling to salvage their strategy. For starters, Cruz wants Reid to make an exception to Senate rules that would make it easier for Republicans to block Obamacare funding (Everett, 9/23).

Dallas Morning News: Ted Cruz, Accused Of Using Obamacare Fight To Run For President, Prods House GOP To Stand Firm
Sen. Ted Cruz kept up the pressure on House Republicans to stand firm against Democratic efforts to fund Obamacare – suggesting yet again that he may not be able to round up enough allies in the Senate to block the health care law. “The House is the only body where the Republicans have a majority and so the House has to lead on this,” he said (Gillman, 9/22).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Lawmakers Start Laying Groundwork For Blame Over Budget Showdown And Government Shutdown
Even before a budget deadline arrives, leaders from both parties are blaming each other — and some Republicans are criticizing their own — for a government shutdown many are treating as inevitable. The top Democrat in the House says Republicans are "legislative arsonists" who are using their opposition to a sweeping health care overhaul as an excuse to close government's doors. A leading tea party antagonist in the Senate counters that conservatives should use any tool available to stop the Affordable Care Act from taking hold. President Bill Clinton's labor secretary says the GOP is willing "to risk the entire system of government to get your way," while the House speaker who oversaw the last government shutdown urged fellow Republicans to remember "this is not a dictatorship" (9/22).

Los Angeles Times: Shutdown Threat Reveals Split In Republican Party
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is expected to begin debate this week on legislation approved by the Republican-led House that would keep the government running but do away with President Obama's Affordable Care Act. Because the Senate's Democratic majority is likely to have enough votes to strip out the healthcare law provision and keep Obama's signature domestic achievement on track, Republicans have few options. They can block the entire bill, joining Cruz's call for a filibuster and risking blame if the government shuts down. Or they can step aside and try to fight the healthcare law during the next budget battle in mid-October (Mascaro, 9/22).

CBS News: Budget Bill Battle Over Obamacare Opens New GOP Schism
After the House passed a bill on Friday funding the government for roughly three months but defunding Obamacare, the fight over the budget and the healthcare law shifted to the Senate. While most lawmakers, including many Republicans, have all but conceded that the Senate will never pass the House bill and will instead re-insert Obamacare funding, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who is leading the fight against the healthcare law in the upper chamber, insisted it's still possible for the Senate to follow the House's lead (Miller, 9/22).

Fox News: Paul: We Probably Can't Get Rid Of 'Obamacare'
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul said Saturday that President Barack Obama's healthcare law is unlikely to be repealed or defunded and suggested that there were few options and not much time left for his fellow congressional Republicans to halt the law's full implementation. Speaking to reporters at a gathering of Michigan Republicans, Paul, a hot prospect for a presidential campaign in 2016, said Republicans in Congress could use votes on measures in the House and in the Senate to come up with compromise legislation that could make the law more palatable (9/22).

Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend news from the Sunday morning talk shows and the back-and-forth over defunding Obamacare (9/22) as well as details of the House vote approving a stopgap spending measure that would defund the health law (9/20).

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