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Washington • House GOP leaders are looking to reverse course and agree to tea party demands to try to use a vote this week on a must-pass temporary government funding bill to block implementation of President Barack Obama's health care law.
A GOP aide says the latest strategy, to be offered to rank-and-file Republicans at a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, would be to link a "defund Obamacare" provision to the stopgap funding bill and send it to the Senate. The aide required anonymity to discuss the strategy because it has not been announced.
The Senate would likely strip out the health care provision and send it to the House, raising the possibility of a confrontation that could lead to a partial government shutdown after the end of the budget year Sept. 30.
The earlier strategy, rejected last week by angry conservatives, would have sent the measure to the Senate as two bills to ensure the Democratic-controlled chamber would be able to ship the spending measure straight to the White House and more easily avert a government shutdown. The idea was to avoid a subsequent vote on a "clean" stopgap spending bill in the House after Senate Democrats vote to strip the provision out.
The fear is that angry GOP conservatives might withhold their votes rather than surrender to the Senate and its top Democrat, Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
The idea of defunding Obama's health care law has been a crusade of tea party conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and outside groups like the Heritage Foundation.
Conservatives want to take a must-pass bill hostage and add the assault on the Affordable Care Act in an attempt to force Obama and congressional Democrats to make concessions. GOP leaders have viewed the effort with skepticism since Democrats would never go along and that Republicans are likely to get the blame if the impasse leads to a partial government shutdown.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Tuesday that the GOP move is a nonstarter.
"The president's been clear. I've been clear. Efforts to either defund or delay the Affordable Care Act are unacceptable," Lew told the Economic Club of Washington.