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Talk of Shutdown Blooms, Despite Boehner's Best-Laid Plans

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Boehner has repeatedly tried to prevent government shutdowns over the past two years.

Harry Reid will no doubt try to strip the defund language from the continuing resolution, and right now he likely has the votes to do so,” said Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in a statement. “At that point, House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground, and continue to listen to the American people. President Obama has already granted Obamacare exemptions to big corporations and Members of Congress; he should not threaten to shut down the government just to deny those same exemptions to hard-working American families.”

In response, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel put the onus on Senate Republicans.

“We trust Republicans in the Senate will put up a fight worthy of the challenge that Obamacare poses,” Steel said.

Boehner has repeatedly sought to avoid government shutdowns over the past two years, and said he wanted to avoid one again.

“There should be no conversation about shutting the government down,” he said Wednesday. “That’s not the goal here.”

Still, GOP aides were cagey Wednesday about whether Boehner would even allow a straight up-or-down vote on any “clean” CR the Senate sends him.

Even if Boehner finds the votes to send a clean bill to the president’s desk, that can-kick would only resolve one of the twin self-imposed crises facing the Capitol, given that House Republicans are piling up ransom demands in return for raising the debt ceiling. Their wish list includes a one-year delay in Obamacare and approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Obama reiterated Wednesday that he will not negotiate on the debt ceiling and urged CEOs at the Business Roundtable to use their influence with Congress to get Republicans to back off their threats.

“I am prepared to work with Democrats and Republicans to deal with our long-term entitlement issues,” he said. “What I will not do is create a habit, a pattern, whereby the full faith and credit of the United States ends up being a bargaining chip to set policy. It’s irresponsible.”

A few hours later, the Chamber of Commerce issued a statement urging Congress to increase the debt ceiling without delay.

Republicans, however, pointed out that Obama himself voted against a debt ceiling hike and note that debt bills have, in the past, been an impetus for other budget deals.

“Every major deficit deal in the last 30 years has been tied to a debt limit increase, and this time should be no different,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said.

House leadership also plans to include a provision in the CR that would prioritize debt payments to avoid defaulting on interest owed on bonds.

But the brinkmanship has alarmed Senate Democrats.

“I’m more worried about default than I’ve ever been,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters at a news conference to discuss the economic costs of the uncertainty on the debt limit.

Senators on the Finance Committee huddled with Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew who warned against delay. Carney dismissed a Republican lawmaker who said the party is doing what its constituents want.

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