* Republicans rejecting Sen. Cruz gambit on Obamacare
* House Republicans' final move on spending unclear
By Richard Cowan and Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON, Sept 24 U.S. Senate Republicans on
Tuesday appeared to fall in line with their leaders who want to
pass an emergency spending bill by Sept. 30 and avoid government
shutdowns, even if it means failing in a drive to destroy
Republican Senator Ted Cruz, the Tea Party-backed
conservative who has been pushing for gutting President Barack
Obama's signature healthcare law by linking it to government
funding in the new fiscal year, sought to rally support.
But his fellow Republicans were moving in the other
direction one day after the party's top two leaders, Mitch
McConnell and John Cornyn, refused to lend their support.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he expects a majority
of the Senate's 46 Republicans will reject Cruz's high-stakes
maneuver that has been embraced by the Republican-led House of
"I think most Republicans believe, no matter how sincere you
are about defunding Obamacare, that this approach would blow up
in our face," Graham told Reuters in a brief hallway interview
on Capitol Hill.
Another senior Republican, who asked not to be identified,
said a government shutdown could ruin the party's chances of
winning back control of the Senate in the 2014 elections.
At the urging of Cruz and other Tea Party members, the
Republican-led House of Representatives narrowly passed the bill
providing government funding but without money for Obamacare.
Passage came on a party-line vote on Friday.
Since Cruz launched his bid, Republican senators and their
aides have been unusually candid in their impatience with the
freshman senator from Texas who has his eye on a 2016 run for
"We will end up not shutting the government down and we will
not defund Obamacare. That's how the movie ends," Republican
Senator John McCain, a former presidential candidate himself,
told reporters. Only when Republicans control 67 votes in the
Senate - enough to override any presidential vetoes - will the
party dismantle the healthcare law, McCain added.
As the Senate slowly moved through a debate that likely will
lead to passing a government funding bill by Sunday, House
Republicans continued to weigh their options once they receive
the Senate's work.
Some congressional aides have said that a new round of House
amendments were being weighed, possibly including one to repeal
an unpopular medical device tax aimed at generating $30 billion
in revenues over a decade to help pay for Obamacare subsidies.
SENATE PASSAGE POSSIBLE SUNDAY
Obama's Democrats, who control the Senate, 54-46, vow to
remove the Obamacare defunding provision, but will first need 60
votes to clear procedural roadblocks.
If they succeed, the Senate is expected to pass a new bill
by Sunday. The measure would then be returned to the House for
The House could then approve the Senate version or try to
amend it. But they would only have a day or so before current
government funding expires.
At this point, it is unclear what House Republican
leadership would decide to do, generating plenty of questions
House Republican leaders have not informed rank-and-file
members what the final stage of the fight over the spending bill
will look like, according to an aide to one junior Republican.
"First and foremost, he doesn't want the government to shut
down," the aide said, though adding that the lawmaker was under
intense pressure from conservatives back home to stop Obamacare.
"He is definitely stressed," the aide said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, has
repeatedly declared the House-passed bill dead as long as it
contains the defunding provision.
But Reid may also seek some other changes to it, said
Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia.
Kaine said Reid is considering offering an amendment that
would provide only enough funding to keep the government
operating through Nov. 15, instead of the Dec. 15 date contained
in the House-passed bill.
Kaine said Democrats hope that a shorter time-frame for
temporary spending might better foster negotiations on finding a
substitute to the across-the-board spending cuts that began in
Those indiscriminate spending cuts, which hit defense and
domestic programs alike, are deeply opposed by Democrats in the
Senate and House.
Once the battle over government funding bill is resolved,
Congress will quickly focus on another potential fiscal crisis -
a possible and unprecedented U.S. government default unless it
agrees to raise the $16.7 trillion U.S. debt limit by sometime
next month or early November.
Republicans are expected to place a number of demands on any
bill to increase the debt limit, including one to delay for a
year implementation of Obamacare, which is now set to begin to
fully kick in next month.