House Speaker John Boehner told a conference call of GOP members Thursday he would push for a short-term spending bill to avoid the potential of a government shutdown, a GOP aide told CNN. But he said that measure, known as a continuing resolution, will include the forced spending cuts, known as the sequester, which could force a budget showdown with the White House.
"When we return, our intent is to move quickly on a short-term continuing resolution that keeps the government running and maintains current sequester spending levels. Our message will remain clear: until the president agrees to better cuts and reforms that help grow the economy and put us on a path to a balanced budget, his sequester -- the sequester he himself proposed, insisted on, and signed into law -- stays in place," Boehner said, according to someone on the call.
Boehner did not indicate whether he would support linking any short-term spending measure to defunding the Affordable Care Act, said two GOP aides, who would not speak on the record because the conference call was private. One of the aides said no final decision has been made regarding the health care reform law and a short-term government funding extension.
Separately under consideration is whether tying any rise in the nation's $16.7 trillion federal debt limit to some changes in the ACA. Some action will need to be taken when that ceiling is met sometime in October or November, or the nation will default on some of its financial commitments. House leadership aides told CNN no decision has been made about how to proceed regarding it.
"Obamacare is one of many things we can pursue on debt limit, potentially the individual mandate delay and codifying the business delay and perhaps other aspects. This is in all discussion phase right now," one leadership aide told CNN.
Another leadership aide said: "Obamacare is one of a number of options we're looking at for a debt ceiling increase, but no decisions have been made."
President Barack Obama has said in the past he will not negotiate conditions regarding raising the debt ceiling, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew pressed for action during a speech Thursday in San Francisco.
"Failing to raise the debt limit would not make these bills go away. It would, though, have disastrous effects for our nation," he said in prepared remarks. "We cannot afford for Congress to wait until some unknowable last minute to resolve this matter on the eve of a deadline. We cannot afford another unnecessary self-inflicted wound."
Boehner did say on the call that House Republicans do see some openings on the general issue of the health reform law especially as the administration has delayed by a year the requirement for employers to offer health care for their employees.
"We will also continue to implement the plan to stop Obamacare that I outlined last month. The delays the administration has been forced to implement in the health care law have given us a golden opportunity to talk about fairness: If big business gets relief from the president's health care law, families and small businesses should, too. This message strikes a chord with Americans. When people hear it, it resonates," the speaker said, according to the person on the call.
Some conservatives in both the House and Senate have said any short-term spending measure must not fund the health care law. Other Republicans have criticized that idea as one that would be harmful to their party because they would be blamed if there was a government shutdown. The federal government is expected to run out of money on Sept. 30 requiring Congress to act to fund its operations.
The conference call was meant as a way for the House Republican leadership to check in with their members during the recess, similar to others used during previous breaks.
Conservative leader Brent Bozell, chairman of the group ForAmerica, issued a statement Thursday night strongly urging House Republicans to stand firm.
"Republicans in Congress promised to do everything possible to stop Obamacare and if they chicken out on this one last chance to block it, millions of conservatives will remember how they were betrayed by politicians who said one thing at home but did the opposite in Washington," Bozell said. "If we are going stop Obamacare it must be done now and the only option left is to pass a Continuing Resolution that funds everything but Obamacare."
At a news conference earlier this month the president said "The idea that you would shut down the government unless you prevent 30 million people from getting health care is a bad idea."
Thursday Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, and 79 other House Republicans sent a letter to Boehner and Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor to push them to continue efforts to make sure Obamacare is not funded.
"We want House leadership to know they have a large group of Members ready to stand with them to stop the president's destructive and unaffordable health care law," they wrote in the letter.