WASHINGTON – Options for keeping the federal government open narrowed Thursday as some of the most conservative Republicans in the House rejected proposals from Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, who had hoped to break a stalemate over the federal budget.
The opposition from conservatives to any measures that fall short of their goals of cutting federal spending or dismantling the national health care law left Boehner with little room to maneuver as a Monday night deadline approached for providing money to keep federal agencies running when the new fiscal year starts Tuesday.
The administration has already begun preparing for a shutdown and intends to notify federal employees today about whether they will be furloughed if nonessential governmental functions are halted.
Boehner emerged from a Republican strategy session trying to drag the president into a broader debate over fiscal policy as it became clear that Congress was running out of time. “The president says, ‘I’m not going to negotiate,’ ” the speaker said. “Well, I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way.”
A White House official compared House Republicans to terrorists and said the president would not bargain with Congress on the need to raise the debt limit by Oct. 17 to keep paying the nation’s bills.
“What we’re not for is negotiating with people with a bomb strapped to their chest,” Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to the president, said on CNN. “We’re not going to do that.”
With the collapse of the GOP strategy in the Senate to stop the Affordable Care Act, debate has shifted to the House, where lawmakers are planning a weekend session with no clear path forward. Democratic senators have made it clear they will remain united against efforts to dismantle the president’s health care law and will strip those provisions from any government-funding bill.
Boehner hoped to open a new front by shifting the focus to the debt-limit legislation. The GOP leadership loaded the debt bill with a proposed one-year delay of the health care law and other demands, including that the administration approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline between Canada and the United States. But conservatives said the bill did not meet leadership promises to balance the budget in 10 years.