| WASHINGTON, Sept 18
WASHINGTON, Sept 18 Republicans in the U.S.
House of Representatives on Wednesday set in motion a plan that
is expected to avert a federal government shutdown on Oct. 1,
but bring another battle over President Barack Obama's
The plan will also force another fight over avoiding a
first-ever government default on its debt. The government's
authority to borrow more money will run out around mid-October
unless Congress increases the debt ceiling.
This year, as in past fiscal showdowns, nothing is certain
about the outcome. Republicans are deeply divided over their
tactical approach and Obama's relationship with Democrats in
Congress is under stress from recent disagreements over Syria
and Obama's choice to head the Federal Reserve.
For the moment, however the carefully scripted legislative
dance, goes like this:
A bill to fund the government temporarily, and thus avoid a
shutdown, may move through the Republican-controlled House this
week. House Speaker John Boehner is trying to round up the votes
among his fellow Republicans to pass a funding bill that will
last through Dec. 15. It would keep in place tough spending caps
imposed by the across-the-board cuts known as the "sequester."
Boehner's task will be aided by language embedded in the
bill and demanded by conservatives that would deny money to
implement Obama's healthcare law, known as Obamacare, which next
month begins signing up uninsured people for subsidized
The Democratic-held Senate is expected to take the
House-passed bill, strip out the troublesome Obamacare provision
and then send it back to the House for final passage.
To do this, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will have to
find at least six Republicans to cooperate with the overall
plan. Though they are in lock-step opposition to Obamacare, some
Senate Republicans consider it futile and politically suicidal
to link efforts to kill it to the government funding or debt
If Reid succeeds, and if the right combination of House
Republicans and Democrats join forces to pass the retooled
Senate bill, Congress will have side-stepped government
shutdowns like the ones that roiled Washington in late 1995 and
Then, House Republicans will queue up the second battle over
raising the $16.7 trillion limit on government borrowing. Past
battles over the debt ceiling have rattled markets far more than
threats of government shutdowns.
Again, Republicans aim to attach to the debt measure a
provision to delay or kill Obamacare, along with other
contentious ideas, such as approving the Keystone oil pipeline
that would run from Canada through the middle of the United
States to the Gulf of Mexico. The Obama administration is
weighing environmental concerns over that long-delayed project.
Both steps are drawing heavy opposition from Democrats.
At a brief press conference following a closed-door meeting
of House Republicans, Boehner warned that this 2013 fight over
the debt limit would be "no different" from his party's efforts
in 2011 to link a debt limit hike to deficit-reduction efforts.
That 2011 battle brought so much uncertainty over the U.S.
government's ability to manage its fiscal affairs that it
resulted in the first-ever downgrade of Washington's
gold-standard credit rating.
Boehner told his fellow Republicans that a House vote on the
debt limit could come as early as next week, setting up a
showdown with the Senate, where Democrats vow to oppose anything
but a simple increase in borrowing authority.