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Obamacare, spending showdown heats up in House

By Deirdre Walsh, CNN Senior Congressional Producer
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Wed September 18, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • House could vote as early as this week on plan to avert shutdown and defund Obamacare
  • Proposal would keep government running through mid-October
  • Senate unlikely to go along with any proposal that does not fund health care law
  • President Barack Obama chastises conservative Republicans over Obamacare, spending

Washington (CNN) -- House Republican leaders are considering a vote this week on a short-term spending bill to keep the government running and defund Obamacare, according to senior House GOP aides, a move that increases the possibility of a government shutdown.

House Speaker John Boehner and other top House GOP leaders have been struggling to avoid a showdown over the health care law spearheaded by President Barack Obama and funding legislation that needs approval before the end of the fiscal year on September 30 to avoid a shutdown.

But their proposed alternative strategy unraveled last week after a sizable chunk of their members threatened to defeat the stop-gap measure because it did not directly link continued government funding with a ban on money for the new health care law.

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The reversal demonstrates the continued inability of Boehner to round up hard line conservatives who insist the spending bill prohibit all Obamacare funding.

"No decisions have been made, or will be made, until House Republican members meet and talk tomorrow," Boehner's spokesman Michael Steel told CNN.

House Republicans are scheduled to discuss the next steps on a vote on the "continuing resolution" Wednesday morning, but GOP aides are targeting a Friday vote on a measure to fund the government through mid-December.

The measure is unlikely to go far in the Senate because majority Democrats have made it clear any effort to defund the new health care law is a non-starter.

A senior House GOP aide expects Senate Democrats to strip the Obamacare defunding language and potentially send the spending bill back to the House with other changes.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid invoked Albert Einstein's definition of insanity when referring to House Republicans on Tuesday, accusing them of doing the same thing over and over -- trying to defund Obamacare -- and expecting a different result.

"They're obsessed with a bill that passed four years ago, a bill that was declared constitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States. They can't get over that," Reid said.

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Another idea gaining traction, which is likely to be brought up as this fight plays out, is attaching a one year delay of Obamacare to legislation that would raise the nation's borrowing authority.

President Barack Obama this week chastised conservative Republicans.

"I cannot remember a time when one faction of one party promises economic chaos if it can't get 100% of what it wants. That's never happened before but that's what's happening right now," Obama said on Monday.

"You have some Republicans in the House of Representatives who are promising to shut down the government at the end of the month if they can't shut down the Affordable Care Act. And if that scheme doesn't work, some have suggested they won't pay the very bills that Congress has run up, which would cause America to default on its debt for the first time in its history," Obama said.

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Louisiana Republican Rep John Fleming said he's still awaiting to see details on the end game from GOP leaders on how this plays out as they near the deadline for the end of the fiscal year.

"I'm not going to support something that's going to boomerang on us," Fleming said.

But he added that he has a longer term goal.

"I think the play is on the debt ceiling. That's where I want to attach the full delay of Obamacare for a year to the debt ceiling increase because there's no shutdown with the debt ceiling," he said of a second fiscal issue facing Congress -- raising the nation's borrowing authority.

Another Louisiana Republican, Rep Steve Scalise, said the battle to defund Obamacare should be waged on both the spending bill and the bill extending the debt limit.

"We're looking at both battles, using both tools within our legislative toolbox," he told CNN.

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