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" healthcare reforms without risking a shutdown,
feared by party leaders who remember the political damage they
suffered when government offices shut their doors in the
The move in the House is the latest indication a Republican
right-wing revolt will complicate Congress' efforts to deal with
looming fiscal deadlines over government spending and the debt
The conflict is part of what is being called a "civil war"
within the Republican Party, energized in part by anti-Obamacare
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, or CR, to fund the
government coupled with one to defund "Obamacare," President
Barack Obama's signature healthcare reform law set to start up
on Oct. 1.
Conservatives want the two elements combined, making it
harder for the Democratic-controlled Senate to ignore Obamacare
as it moves to fund the government.
In a sign the plan was in trouble, a leadership notice sent
to House Republicans on Wednesday afternoon told members not to
expect a vote this week.
The delay comes as Congress is racing against a Sept. 30
deadline to pass new funding legislation to avoid a government
shutdown on Oct. 1 as the new fiscal year gets started.
Many conservative Republicans have said Cantor's spending
plan would result in a "trick" vote that would fail to meet
their goal of withholding funds to implement key parts of the
healthcare reform law. Instead, they say the plan would
ultimately allow for passage of a stop-gap spending bill,
healthcare money and all.
"The Cantor CR plan appears to be in jeopardy assuming no
Democrats would vote for it," said an aide to a House Republican
member opposed to the plan. "There is strong opposition from
conservatives and even members who might typically support
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 signed a letter last month requesting that House Speaker
John Boehner put forward a spending measure that defunds
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.
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 that
continue "sequester" across-the-board spending cuts, totaling
about $988 billion annually.
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 groups and Tea Party activists who see a denial of
money as a last-ditch effort to prevent key provisions of the
healthcare law from going into effect - notably the Oct. 1
Senator Ted Cruz, the conservative firebrand from Texas who
is a leader of the campaign, rallied against the Republican plan
at a Tea Party gathering outside the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday.
"House Republicans should pass a continuing resolution that
funds government in its entirely - except Obamacare - and that
explicitly prohibits spending any federal money, mandatory or
discretionary, on Obamacare," Cruz said.
The House has taken 40 votes to repeal, defund or otherwise
limit the Affordable Care Act since its passage in 2010. Most
have simply been ignored by the Senate.
Republican leaders say they share the desire to defund
Obamacare, but since neither the Senate nor Obama would ever
approve it, they regard it as a lost and politically dangerous
"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," said Representative Mike Simpson of Idaho, a
senior member of the House Appropriations Committee.
"That was Republicans. I'm not saying they want to shut the
government down. They want to defund Obamacare. But if the
inevitable result of the position you are taking and the hard
stance you are taking on something shuts the government down,
then yeah, you're responsible," Simpson said.
Senate Democrats have little problem with the Cantor plan, a
senior Democratic aide said, because they could easily defeat
the Obamacare defunding measure and pass the spending measure.
Senate Democrats also would likely support the proposed
extension of spending through Dec. 15 at the current, $988
billion rate, which is higher than the $967 billion rate that
House Republicans previously advocated.