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Congress: GOP split over budget strategy

Politico: “A brewing Republican versus Republican fight over whether to use a government funding measure to choke off Obamacare is splitting the party ahead of this fall’s budget battles. … The debate is happening behind closed doors and over Senate lunches, as well as during a frank meeting Wednesday with House leaders in Speaker John Boehner’s suite where fresh concerns were aired about the party’s strategy. On Thursday, the dispute began to spill into public view, most notably when three Senate Republicans — including Minority Whip John Cornyn — withdrew their signatures from a conservative letter demanding defunding Obamacare as a condition for supporting the government funding measure.” 

The Hill: “A push to defund ObamaCare using the threat of a government shutdown is gaining momentum among House and Senate conservatives. On Thursday, a group of 12 senators sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) stating that none would support a measure to fund the government if it includes resources for the healthcare law. And on the House side, 66 Republicans have backed an effort by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) to discourage GOP leadership from bringing any bill to the floor that includes ObamaCare money.”

Roll Call: “Sen. Richard M. Burr on Thursday took aim at conservatives who have threatened to shut down the federal government if the 2010 health care law is not defunded, calling it the ‘dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.’ In an audio recording posted by Public Radio International’s Washington correspondent Todd Zwillich, the North Carolina Republican was asked by reporters if he was supportive of the efforts led by GOP Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida. ‘That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of,’ Burr said. ‘As long as Barack Obama is president, the Affordable Care Act is going to be the law.’”

The Hill: “House Republicans are fretting over the looming fiscal battles this fall. They claim there has been a lack of communication from GOP leaders on the government shutdown and debt-limit showdowns that lurk after the August recess.”

National Journal: “GOP lawmakers and aides say Boehner plans to assume a more aggressive posture in the upcoming fights to fund the government and raise the debt limit than he’s displayed so far on immigration. Deadlines, politics, and the enormous consequences of inaction all make the stakes much higher in the coming fiscal battles.”

Speaking of immigration… Charlie Cook: “It's hard to be optimistic about the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform when you talk to House Republicans. My conversations suggest that if anything passes the House, it will most likely be small, bite-sized morsels of largely noncontroversial ideas—lowest-common-denominator items that bear little resemblance to the sweeping immigration measure that passed the Senate on June 27.” More: “[A]ll of this high-minded stuff—that Republicans need to get the immigration issue off the table if they want to win and hold a Senate majority or win the White House—matters little to many GOP House lawmakers who sit in very white, very conservative congressional districts and who have much more to fear from a conservative primary challenger than from a Democrat.”

And Steve King kept calling immigrant children “drug smugglers.”

Evidence of Democrat vs. Democrat infighting… The Hill: “Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is closing in on winning a majority of senators to back legislation to remove sexual assault cases from the chain of command — sparking a scramble from her opponents to blunt her offensive. Gillibrand has secured support from 44 senators who have co-sponsored her measure or publicly backed it, this week adding Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Michael Bennett (D-Colo.). Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) — the chief authors of an alternative proposal — both fired back against Gillibrand’s bill.” 

In a bizarre moment, Roll Call reports Mark Sanford didn’t know votes had been moved up Thursday, and no one knew where he was. He showed up in exercise gear – t-shirt, shorts, and sneakers – and borrowed a blazer. It prompted this from Rep. Duncan Hunter: “Where have you been? Hiking?”