WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- House Republicans will vote Friday on a stopgap spendingmeasure that defunds President Obama's health care law, setting up aconfrontation with Democrats that could force a government shutdown atthe end of the month.
"The law is a train wreck," House SpeakerJohn Boehner, R-Ohio, said after a closed-door meeting Wednesday inwhich the leadership briefed lawmakers on their plan to approve aspending bill through Dec. 15 that includes legislation to defund thehealth care law as well as legislation to prioritize debt payments ifCongress does not raise the nation's debt ceiling by mid-October.
GOPleaders were forced to include stricter defunding language in thespending bill after conservatives made clear they would not support abill that did not specifically cut funding for the health care law. "Welistened to our colleagues over the course of the last week. We have aplan that they're happy with. We're going forward," Boehner said.
Theoutcome is likely to be the same: Senate Democrats will reject thelanguage regarding the health care law and return to the House aspending measure without strings attached to keep the governmentrunning. Whether or not the House approves the returned measure willdetermine whether the government will begin shutdown protocols on Oct 1.
"HouseRepublicans have decided to pursue a path away from the center, awayfrom compromise," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday,calling the House GOP's latest budget plan one that increases thechances for "a wholly unnecessary and damaging shutdown of thegovernment."
Boehner said Republicans are not seeking ashutdown but want to use the budget deadlines to extract additionalfiscal changes from Democrats. "There should be no conversation aboutshutting the government down," Boehner said, "That's not the goal here.Our goal here is to cut spending and to protect the American people fromObamacare. It's as simple as that."
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., alsosaid a shutdown was not in the GOP's interest, but said Republicans wantto force action in the Senate on the health care law. "We have someleverage there," he said, "We have some Democratic vulnerabilities. Wehave a lot of Democrats who don't want to have to vote on this, and thatfrankly might want to work with us in some way to not have to face thatchoice, but we'll never know that if we can't get the vehicle overthere to them to have a chance to deal with it."
The GOP plan istwofold. After the vote on the spending bill this week, HouseRepublicans will vote as early as next week on a legislative package toraise the nation's borrowing limit for one year in exchange for delayingthe implementation of the health care law, an agreement to beginconstruction of the Keystone oil pipeline, and measures to overhaul thetax code and lower energy prices, among others, said Majority LeaderEric Cantor, R-Va.
The House is scheduled to be in recess nextweek, but GOP leaders have warned lawmakers that the break could becanceled to address the budget deadlines. Republicans emerging fromWednesday's meeting with the understanding that the tougher showdown islikely to come on the debt ceiling vote.
"Our perception is the debt ceiling is where the success will be," said Rep. John Fleming, R-La.
SenateDemocrats and the White House have so far held firm that they will notnegotiate with Republicans on either the stopgap spending measure or thedebt ceiling vote. Obama reiterated that pledge Wednesday in a speechbefore the Business Roundtable, which represents the nation's topexecutives.
"We're not going to set up a situation where the fullfaith and credit of the United States is put on the table every year orevery year and a half and we go through some sort of terrifyingfinancial brinksmanship because of some ideological arguments thatpeople are having about some particular issue of the day. We're notgoing to do that," Obama said.