* Next move comes in the Republican-controlled House
* Conservatives vow to continue "Obamacare" delay push
By Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON, Sept 28 With conservative House
Republicans promising not to back down on an emergency spending
bill in a push to defund President Barack Obama's healthcare
reform law, the U.S. government edged closer on Saturday to its
first shutdown since 1996.
Although a last-minute temporary solution including a
possible 10-day extension of government funding had been raised
on Friday, there were no signs Democrats and Republicans could
reach a deal before the Oct. 1 deadline.
No negotiations appeared to be underway between the two
The Senate, as expected, passed on Friday a straight-forward
emergency-funding measure to keep the government running through
Nov. 15, after stripping out Republican language to end funding
for the 2010 healthcare law known as Obamacare.
Republicans who control the House of Representatives must
now decide how to respond, a move that could come as early as
Representative Tom Graves of Georgia announced on Friday
that he and 61 of his colleagues would insist on a one-year
delay of "Obamacare," which is set to launch on October 1, as a
condition of funding the government and averting a shutdown.
The push to make a stand on the healthcare restructuring,
which Republicans view as a massive government intrusion that
will cause premiums to skyrocket, has been bolstered by the
conservative, anti-Washington Tea Party wing of the party.
Rejection of the funding measure would throw the ball back
to the Democratic-controlled Senate, perhaps as late as Sunday
or early Monday, with little time remaining to continue the
All indications are that Republicans will tack on a new
measure to that bill, which likely would be rejected by the
Senate and make a shutdown all the more likely.
If Congress does not act before midnight on Monday, the
government's legal authority to spend money for routine
activities runs out.
Spending for functions considered essential, related to
national security or public safety, would continue along with
benefit programs such as Medicare health insurance and Social
Security retirement benefits for seniors.
But hundreds of thousands of civilian federal employees
-from people who process forms and handle regulatory proceedings
to workers at national parks and museums in Washington - would
Obama, in his regular Saturday address, accused Republicans
of "appeasing an extreme faction of their party" bent on
creating "a crisis that will hurt people for the sole purpose of
advancing their ideological agenda."
The Republican response, delivered by Representative Cathy
McMorris Rodgers, focused not on a possible shutdown but on the
next fight, over raising the government's borrowing authority,
which runs out in mid-October.
Republicans are likely to demand concessions-including the
scuttling of "Obamacare" in exchange for raising the debt
ceiling as well. While failure to do so could lead to a
market-rattling default by the government, McMorris Rodgers
defended the Republican tactic.
"By an overwhelming margin, Americans believe any debt
ceiling increase should be coupled with solutions that help
solve our debt and grow our economy," she said.
While diehard conservative Republicans in the House remained
determined in their pursuit to kill "Obamacare," other members
of the divided Republican caucus were despairing, privately and
Representative Shelley Moore Capito, a seven-term West
Virginia Republican, told Reuters she had "no idea what's going
Capito said, "I gave up trying to make predictions a few
years ago" after scores of lawmakers backed by the Tea Party
movement helped Republicans win back the House from Obama's
"There's a lot of exasperation by those of us who want to
move the ball forward and in a rational way," Capito said. "By
rational, I mean trying to achieve the achievable."
"There is a lot of frustration because there is absolutely
no way to please certain members. That's frustrating to all of
us become it becomes an internal battle. Some of us feel we are
in a circular firing squad," Capito said.
The last government shutdown ran from Dec. 16, 1995 to Jan.
6, 1996 and was the product of a budget battle between
Democratic President Bill Clinton and Republicans, led by
then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.