Below is from FNC Chad Pergram
Urgent: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Saturday on Capitol Hill
Per Pergram-Capitol Hill
The House of Representatives is now meeting.
Only one-minute speeches. Nothing special. Same will happen at noon et.
Best line of the morning came from a short speech on the floor by Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY): “There are lemonade stands with better budget practices than ours.”
We are staking out the Congressional leadership at the door. But so far, no arrivals.
The real action will start at noon et when the House Republican Conference will hold a closed-door session in the basement of the Capitol.
From a production standpoint….around 11:40 and beyond…we will have two live cameras up to get arrivals and departures in the two hallways leading to that room.
One will be in the “Ugly Hallway.” The other is at the Center Steps. Both shots will be on REMS.
We will also have a portable camera available to get individual interviews.
We expect the House GOP leadership to go through a fairly bruising conference…with members expressing all sorts of views on what the House should do next and what they should do to the revamped Senate CR (Continuing Resolution to fund the government) before kicking it back to the Senate.
The prevailing viewpoint is a one-year delay in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Of course, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said repeatedly that any add-ons cutting into Obamacare…are non-starters.
Other ideas include lifting the Obamacare exemption for lawmakers and their staffs. That is popular publicly but lawmakers are quietly against that. They are concerned about their aides with health problems and some members have family members with unique medical issues. House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA, JAY-mee herr-AIR-uh BUTT-lerr) come to mind.
There is also chatter about stripping the medical device tax to the new House CR. The medical device tax is a big revenue source for Obamacare…to the tune of $30 billion.
So, expect interviews and pictures before and after the conference meeting. We are not anticipating a press conference.
It is entirely possible that the House may not even vote on anything today…and quite possible tomorrow is out as well..with this bleeding into Monday. But the Senate, having approved its bill to restore the Affordable Care Act funding and keep the government open…is out until 2 pm et on Monday. So the House has until then to get something ready.
If House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) thinks he has the votes, he will forge ahead. Quickly. He doesn’t want something sitting out there too long. Plus, the optics are in his favor. The House WORKING today and voting on something while the Senate sits at home looks good in the public eye.
However, if the House decides to delay, this could all get called off very fast sometime after the conference meeting and there would be no legislative action on the CR later on. But several informal sources tell me they believe the House will move ahead today.
If the House does decide to forge ahead with something today, here’s mechanically what has to happen:
The House Rules Committee would have to meet to create a “rule” to allow them to consider a new CR today. Typically, a “rule” which dictates the parameters for handling a bill on the floor…has to happen one day in advance. But they have the ability to do a “same day rule” now…as a result of Thursday night’s Rules Committee meeting.
The House would then have to adopt the rule on the floor…and then move on to debate and vote on a new House CR.
I would not expect any activity from the House Rules Committee (if at all) until 2-3 pm et at the earliest. That means they probably wouldn’t put a rule on the floor until late afternoon or early evening…and not debate and vote on a new CR until mid or late evening.
Then what happens?
Once again, the House and Senate have both passed CR’s. But they are not in synch. So, the Ping-Pong match continues as the House pings the latest version of the CR back to the Senate. The Senate can’t do anything with it until Monday afternoon.
Part of the strategy by Reid to keep the Senate out over the weekend was to limit access to the floor by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT). The thought is that they could conceivably tie up the floor when Reid needs to move again. That in fact would be a true filibuster if they wanted to hold forth throughout the weekend. But Reid has successfully kept them off the floor.
Still, Reid has the upper hand for now. When the bill comes back from the House, Reid doesn’t have to use any parliamentary devices to “file cloture” or anything like that. Nor can Cruz and Lee filibuster. The bill comes back as a “message between two houses.” The House and Senate have passed companion legislation…which is now “privileged.” That means it goes to the front of the legislative line and there’s no way for Cruz and Lee to block it. Reid is on record that he will not accept anything that digs into Obamacare. So Reid can simply “table” or set aside the new House bill…and he can do it quickly. Reid can call a vote that simply needs 51 yeas..and immediately flush it back to the House Monday afternoon.
So the bill would then sit in John Boehner’s court…and Boehner then has a big decision to make.
Does Boehner send back the same package Monday night with the government hours away from a shutdown because the House and Senate can’t pass the same package? Or does he do something very different?
Boehner has consistently said the government cannot shut down. But Boehner’s back is against the wall then. By that point, the House will have passed two bils which either eliminated or delayed the Affordable Care Act in this round alone. If the House and Senate can’t reach an agreement, the government will shut down.
One option remains to Boehner which is very onerous. It could potentially imperil his Speakership and drive a wedge between him and his leadership team. But he could “accept” the Senate bill…which funds the government and pays for Obamacare. How does he pass that bill? With a minority of Republican yeas and a lot of Democratic yeas.
On every major bill over the past two-and-a-half years….government shutdowns, the debt ceiling, Hurricane Sandy aid, a transportation bill, the Violence Against Women Act…Boehner has lost 40-90 of his own Republicans and yet passed a bill with Democratic help. He can only lose 16 of his own before needing assistance from the other side.
In January on the hurricane bill, the House passed the package 241-180. Only 49 Republicans voted yes. Yet 192 Democrats voted yea…in the Republican-led House.
Of course, no one knows if Boehner will elect to take that path. His public comments signal he won’t. But it is an option which would avert a government shutdown.
Senior Producer for Capitol Hill