A key part of the law, the opening of state insurance exchanges, is set to take effect Oct. 1, so the effort to gut the health care law has added urgency among conservative activists.
When Cruz suggested in a statement that the fight could not be won in the Senate, he infuriated House Republicans.
In fact, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., would appear to have the upper hand and be able to use his 54-46 majority to strip the Obamacare provision out and punt the bill back to the House. But it’ll take all next week, in all likelihood, to advance the measure through the Senate.
“I just see a big box canyon sitting out there,” said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., using Western imagery to suggest that the defunding crusade is a dead-end strategy or perhaps even a scenario for a slaughter.
Republicans are worried that they’ll take the blame for any shutdown. The party that picks a fight generally gets the blame if an impasse results.
“I’m one who doesn’t believe that a shutdown does anything except divert attention from a president and his policies, which are rightfully unpopular, to congressional incompetence,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. “We’ve seen what happens when Republicans are divided; we basically cede power and influence on the outcome.”
Some Democrats, especially in the House, dislike the underlying stopgap spending bill because its spending rate is consistent with the $986 billion level permitted this year after the imposition of the sequester — the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts mandated by Washington’s longstanding gridlock over the budget.
“Right now, the mood is not favorable to a $986 (billion) number,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
But White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that Obama would indeed accept a stopgap spending bill at the GOP-sought level, which increases the likelihood that Democrats would eventually provide votes to help pass the measure over tea party opposition. The White House had previously ducked the question, so the step was seen on Capitol Hill as a signal to Democrats.
“Look,” said Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., “we don’t want a government shutdown and if we have to choose between trying to fix the sequester at a later time, three months, 75 days from now, or a government shutdown, we’ll take the 75 days.”
Republicans cautioned, however, that it is by no means assured that the House leaders like Boehner would simply surrender and schedule a vote if the Senate kicks back the bill.