U.S. House of Representatives

Conservatives appear poised to support Boehner’s strategy of using the debt ceiling, not the CR, to fight Obamacare.

By Tim Alberta
September 25, 2013 | 10:45 p.m.

Conservative Republicans in the House appear ready to back off their demands that the short-term funding resolution Congress must pass to avoid a government shutdown also defund or delay Obamacare.

In a shift that could spare John Boehner a damaging uprising from his majority’s right wing, conservatives have begun to acknowledge their lack of leverage in the funding debate and are now coalescing around the House speaker’s preferred strategy of forcing the White House to accept health-law changes by holding the debt ceiling hostage.

Still, Republicans are searching for some concessions that might allow them to escape the debate over the continuing resolution with a scaled-down policy victory.

In a private conference call Tuesday night, talk among conservatives centered on using the funding bill to “chip away” at Obamacare rather than defund it entirely, according to one senior GOP aide familiar with the conversation. “People were very cautious,” the aide said, noting the change in tone and language. “There was not an enormous amount of fight from members.”

Indeed, according to several lawmakers and GOP aides familiar with House Republicans’ recent strategy sessions, lawmakers have abruptly shifted from swinging for the fences to playing small ball – dropping demands that the bill defund the program and instead calling for conservative policy riders to be pasted onto the Senate CR.

“We’re closer to the deadline, so folks start thinking differently as our options narrow,” explained Rep. Erik Paulsen of Minnesota.

Boehner will outline those remaining options on Thursday morning, when House Republicans gather to discuss how they’ll respond when the Senate, as expected, returns the spending bill to the House with Obamacare funding intact.

One lawmaker described Boehner’s approach as a “one-two punch” to defeat the Affordable Care Act.

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