WASHINGTON — House Republican leaders, bowing to the demands of their conservative wing, will hold a vote Friday on a stopgap spending measure that would strip all funding from President Obama’s signature health care law, increasing the likelihood that the government will shut down in two weeks.
House leaders are hoping the vote on the defunding measure will placate conservatives once the Democratic-controlled Senate rejects it. The House, they are betting, would then pass a stopgap spending measure unencumbered by such policy baggage and shift the argument to the debt ceiling, which must be raised by mid-October if the government is to avoid an economically debilitating default.
But publicly, Republican leaders say they are ready for a standoff with the Senate and will not easily give in.
“The law’s a train wreck,” Speaker John A. Boehner said of the health care law, the Affordable Care Act, on Wednesday morning. “It’s time to protect American families from this unworkable law.”
The decision to embrace a showdown on the health care law came after months of pushing by conservatives — and resistance by Republican leaders — to link it to the government financing measures that Congress must address this fall.
In March, referring to the push to link funding for the health law to an increase in the debt limit, Boehner asked: “Do you want to risk the full faith and credit of the US government over Obamacare? That’s a very tough argument to make.”
Speaking to a national business group on Wednesday, Obama tried to raise the pressure on congressional Republicans, saying that threats of a fiscal default or government shutdown by his political adversaries risk throwing the US economy back into crisis.
Obama accused what he called “a faction” of Republicans in the House of trying to “extort” him by refusing to pass a stopgap spending measure or raise the nation’s debt ceiling unless the president’s health care plan is repealed.
“You have never in the history of the United States seen the threat of not raising the debt ceiling to extort a president or a governing party,” Obama told the group, the Business Roundtable. “It’s irresponsible.”
Obama called upon the business leaders to try to persuade lawmakers to avoid the kind of “brinksmanship” that would lead to promises of “apocalypse” every few months.
“I’m tired of it,” he added. “And I suspect you are too.”
At least for now, the decision by House Republicans to move ahead on a vote to link health care money to a government financing measure has unified them, even as it has divided their Senate counterparts.
“I have not watched our conference so unified as we walk into this battle,” said Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Republican whip.
Senators are not so sure. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, called gutting the health care law “a bridge too far” with Democrats in control of the White House and Senate. And, he added: “At the end of the day, a shutdown we own. Like it or not, we’re going to own it.”
For now, House Republicans say they are not predicting how the standoff will play out.
The House’s stopgap spending measure would fund the government through mid-December at the current spending levels, which reflect the automatic spending cuts that took effect in March, known as sequestration. If that clears the House on Friday, Republican leaders could put forward a bill as soon as next week that would raise the government’s statutory borrowing limit.
That measure would take aim at the Affordable Care Act as well, with a one-year delay of implementation attached to a raise in the debt ceiling high enough to accommodate a year of borrowing.
It would also expedite construction of the transcontinental Keystone XL oil pipeline and set a binding timeline for an overhaul of the entire federal tax code. It could also include a grab bag of other Republican measures, including specific spending cuts and regulatory changes.
How any of these bills would survive contact with Democrats in the Senate seemed beyond the care of House Republicans.
“Even the best coaches in the NFL only script out the first two series of plays,” said Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, when asked how the speaker would manage the sequence of events. “They don’t script the whole game. We’ve got to play the game. We’ve got to see how it all shapes out.”