* Conservatives demand harder stance to defund Obamacare
* House leadership aides: More time needed to explain plan
* Government shutdown looms at the end of September
By David Lawder and Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON, Sept 11 A Republican plan aimed at
averting a government shutdown in less than three weeks ran into
a wall of opposition on Wednesday from conservatives in the U.S.
House of Representatives, and leaders delayed any votes on it
until at least next week.
The plan, derided as a "trick" by some conservatives, would
have let them cast an essentially symbolic vote to defund
"Obamacare" health reforms without risking a shutdown, feared by
party leaders who remember the political damage they suffered
when government offices shut their doors in the mid-1990s.
The move in the House of Representatives is the latest
indication that a revolt by conservative Republicans is
complicating Congress' efforts to deal with looming fiscal
deadlines over government funding and the federal debt limit.
The delay pushes Congress closer to the Sept. 30 deadline
for approving new government funding. With conservatives
demanding a tougher stance on defunding and delaying President
Barack Obama's signature healthcare legislation, known as
"Obamacare," the chances of a shutdown appear greater.
The conflict is part of what is being called by some
analysts a "civil war" within the Republican Party, energized in
part by rallies and Tea Party gatherings during the August
recess and the organizing efforts of the conservative Heritage
Action, a sister to the conservative Heritage Foundation.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor had previously scheduled a
vote this week on a continuing resolution to fund the government
for 11 weeks coupled with a measure to defund Obamacare before
the law's health insurance exchanges launch on Oct. 1.
Conservatives, led by Representative Tom Graves of Georgia,
were crafting an alternative plan that would combine the two
elements, making it harder for the Democratic-controlled Senate
to ignore Obamacare as it moves to fund the government. The
alternative one-year plan would also include a year-long
statutory delay for implementation of the law.
"I will not surrender in the fight to delay Obamacare for
all Americans," said Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana,
who heads a large group of House conservatives called the
Republican Study Committee. "We must use every legislative
avenue available, through the CR, the debt ceiling, and
sequester conversations to free the country from the President's
train-wreck of a healthcare law."
Scalise and other conservatives said the Cantor plan lacked
teeth and would ultimately allow for passage of a stop-gap
spending bill, healthcare money and all.
Republicans say the healthcare law will hurt job creation,
while supporters view it as a landmark initiative that will
extend health insurance coverage to millions of Americans.
Moderate Republicans who supported the leadership plan said
the hard-line stance that conservatives demanded would likely
prompt a shutdown of the type that Republicans forced in 1995
and 1996 on then-President Bill Clinton - ultimately helping to
seal the Democrat's re-election.
"I think there's a number of people who don't remember when
the government was shut down the last time and who carried the
burden of that? That was Republicans," said Representative Mike
Simpson of Idaho, a member of the House Appropriations and
A House leadership aide said more time was needed to explain
the plan to members and answer their questions, adding, "We are
talking to people right now."
It would take only 16 Republicans to defect from the party's
233-member majority to sink the Cantor plan. Some 80 House
members had signed a letter last month requesting that House
Speaker John Boehner put forward a spending measure that defunds
A senior House Democratic aide said all 200 Democrats
intended to oppose the defunding plan. Democrats also are
opposed, the aide said, because the Republican funding measure
would simply extend current discretionary spending levels of
$988 billion annually, reflecting automatic, "sequester"
across-the-board spending cuts.
Democrats favor higher spending levels and want to replace
sequester cuts partly with tax increases on the wealthy.
Opposition to the Cantor plan has been fueled by
conservative Tea Party activists and groups that see a denial of
money as a last-ditch effort to prevent the healthcare law from
taking full effect after some 40 previous House votes to repeal
or curtail the law failed since its 2010 passage by Democrats.
The conservative group FreedomWorks on Tuesday blasted House
Republican leaders in an Internet posting, saying their plan
would ultimately support Democratic policies.
"Apparently House Republican leaders think we're stupid,"
wrote Dean Clancy, a FreedomWorks vice president, referring to
Cantor's plan for moving the CR through the House. "It's a
A new poll released by the Pew Research Center illustrated
the discontent within the Republican ranks. The survey found
that only 27 percent of Tea Party Republicans and those leaning
toward the Tea Party approved of their congressional Republican
leaders' performance, while 71 percent disapproved.
But Senate Democrats have little problem with the Cantor
plan, a senior Democratic aide said, because they can easily
defeat the Obamacare provision and pass the spending measure.
The aide said a vote to support Obamacare funding would not
be difficult for senators in tight 2014 re-election races
because they voted to pass the reforms in 2010.