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Fox News –
House Speaker John Boehner, in an abrupt turnaround, plans to let Tea Party lawmakers have a vote on de-funding ObamaCare as part of a politically risky strategy which Democrats warn could result in a government shutdown.
GOP leaders unveiled their plan to members on Wednesday morning, teeing up a vote for Friday — the proposed bill would tie the vote to de-fund the health care law to a vote on a stopgap spending bill. Current funding for the government is set to expire at the end of the month, and lawmakers must approve the stopgap bill in order to keep Washington open; conservatives see this as leverage to force a suspension of ObamaCare.
“The law’s a trainwreck,” Boehner said of the Affordable Care Act. “It’s time to protect American families from this unworkable law.”
Effectively, Boehner and his deputies have backed off a compromise approach they earlier tried to sell to rank-and-file conservatives. Under that plan, the House would have sent two bills to the Senate — one to de-fund ObamaCare, the other to fund the government. The Senate, then, would have been able to easily bypass the ObamaCare bill and send the spending measure straight to the White House, in turn averting a government shutdown.
But House conservatives revolted, and Boehner now plans to tie the two votes together. Under the plan, funding the government would be conditional on de-funding ObamaCare. It is a concession to House conservatives as well as senators like Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and outside groups like the Heritage Foundation that have demanded Congress use the must-pass budget bill as leverage to derail the health care law.
But it is also undoubtedly risky.
President Obama and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid have warned Republicans not to go down that road, suggesting that they will bear the brunt of the blame if the gambit results in a government shutdown.
Obama blasted Republicans during an interview Tuesday with Telemundo.
“We’re hearing that a certain faction of Republicans, in the House of Representatives in particular are arguing for government shutdown or even a default for the United States of America … if they don’t get 100 percent of what they want,” Obama said.
On Wednesday in Washington, Obama suggested that Republicans have gotten distracted from their original goal of cutting deficits. “We have not seen this in the past, that a budget is contingent on us eliminating a program that was voted on, passed by both chambers of Congress,” Obama said.
The GOP measure would fund the government through Dec. 15, at current funding levels. Republicans also plan to push a measure dealing with the debt ceiling, with a mid-October deadline looming for when the government can no longer honor its obligations. GOP leaders say that measure will include an effort to delay the implementation of the health care law as well.
Democratic leaders have no intention, though, of supporting any effort to de-fund the health law, and the Senate would likely reject such a move and send the measure back.
Then it would be an open question as to whether the House could pass a straight budget bill. Boehner might be compelled to consider passing a budget with a coalition of mostly Democrats. Or, the House and Senate could get stuck in a bout of legislative ping-pong, each passing its own bill and bouncing it over to the other chamber.
But that could only last so long, since government funding runs out at midnight on Sept. 30. The bill would become a hot potato — neither chamber would want to have it when the clock runs out.
“When it comes to a government shutdown, it may depend on who is holding the ball at the end,” said Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.