WASHINGTON – Congressional Republicans struggled to tamp down a family feud Thursday as they approached a politically charged showdown with the White House that combines the threat of a government shutdown, a possible first-ever federal default and the GOP’s bid to repeal the nation’s three-year-old health care law.
One day after conceding that the Democratic-controlled Senate probably would prevail on the last part, Sen. Ted Cruz still vowed to do “everything and anything possible to defund Obamacare.” That includes a possible filibuster of legislation to prevent a partial government shutdown, the Texas Republican added.
That was a step further than Sen. Mike Lee of Utah – Cruz’s partner in a summertime run of “Defund Obamacare” television commercials – was willing to go. President Barack Obama’s health care law “is not worth causing a shutdown over,” he said.
The two men spoke at a news conference with several House Republicans where lawmakers stressed they were unified and thanked Speaker John Boehner for agreeing to tie the anti-shutdown and anti-Obamacare provisions into one bill.
That bill is on track for House passage on Friday, with a Senate showdown to follow.
The House intends to move quickly next week with a separate bill to put the health care law on ice, this one a measure that also would allow the Treasury to avoid a default that could destabilize the economy.
Boehner got in a subtle jab at Cruz and Senate conservatives who have been clamoring for weeks for a showdown on the health care law.
“I expect my Senate colleagues to be up for the battle,” he said.
The prospect is for a 10-day period of intense uncertainty, with Boehner pledging to avoid a shutdown yet also hoping to come away with a bite out of the health care law, even if less than complete defunding.
Congressional aides pointed out during the day, for example, that if the Senate rewrites the House-passed bill to leave the health care law in place, Boehner and the rest of the House leadership could still seek further changes before passing it a second time.
For their part, the White House and majority Democrats in the Senate will be trying to protect the health care law – which stands as Obama’s signature domestic accomplishment – without complicating the re-election chances of senators on the 2014 ballot in swing states.