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House Republicans Scramble to Avoid October Government Shutdown

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Cruz and almost a dozen Republicans have stated they won’t support GOP leaders’ plan to allow an Obamacare defunding measure to fail in the Senate while letting the underlying spending bill survive.

“I’m waiting to hear from the House on what they are going to do,” said Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md. “My preference would be a short-term CR and get to an omnibus after Thanksgiving. So, I would prefer that we have a very short-term CR now to work things out.”

Mikulski added, “You know, Syria has slowed all conversation down about this.”

Democrats, too, are fiscal-battle weary, still burned from an administration they believe negotiated the fiscal-cliff deal last year so poorly that they ceded all leverage and stuck themselves with cuts no one liked.

But perhaps the most exhausting element of all four leaders is the demand for yet another round of votes to defund Obamacare. The House has voted 40 times to repeal the law, to no avail and to no real expectation of success.

Yet, 80 House Republicans have pledged to oppose a CR that doesn’t defund the 2010 health law.

To assuage those Republican rank-and-file members, House GOP leadership has come up with a legislative maneuver to allow Republicans to vote on defunding the law and then force the Senate to do the same as a condition of voting on the CR. In the end, the defunding provision is expected to fail in the Senate but the underlying spending bill would survive.

Nearly a dozen Republicans have, since hearing the plan from their leaders on Tuesday morning, stated they would not support the measure under those circumstances. Conservative firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, already called such a plan “procedural chicanery.” And influential conservative advocacy groups are promising to key vote even the rule on the CR, making the chances for passage of the measure slated for consideration on the floor on Thursday increasingly slim.

“Last night, news reports surfaced that the House of Representatives might vote to ‘defund Obamacare’ in a way that easily allows Senate Democrats to keep funding Obamacare. If House Republicans go along with this strategy, they will be complicit in the disaster that is Obamacare,” Cruz said in a statement Tuesday. “If you oppose Obamacare, don’t fund Obamacare. Our elected leaders should listen to the American people.”

That rallying call was heard in the other chamber as well.

“The House plan is a gimmick that leaves defunding Obamacare in the hands of the Democrat-controlled Senate, and I will not support it,” Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, said in a statement. “The Senate has proven they cannot be trusted to do the right thing when it comes to the job-killing Unaffordable Care Act.”

“You only need 17 to bring down a rule unless they’ve already ran out and got the Democrat support for this,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., who says he’ll vote against the CR at this point. Should they get the votes to move forward, he added, Republicans “risk losing the majority” of the House in 2014.

Rep. John Fleming, R-La., suggested that tying a one-year delay of Obamacare to increasing the debt limit later this year could be the key to rallying Republican votes back to the CR, despite the legislative maneuver leaders endorse.

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