Threat Of Government Shut Down Looms As Budget Year Nears End

Prospects for a government shutdown seem higher than they have in years. With two weeks to go before the budget year ends, a contingent of House Republicans are insisting that any spending bill must "defund" Obamacare — a condition the Democratically-led Senate and President Obama say they will not abide.

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Congress has two weeks to come up with an agreement to fund the federal government. Failure to do so would force a shutdown on October 1, the start of the new fiscal year, and that shutdown is looking more and more likely. House Republicans have been unable to agree on a stopgap funding bill. The big challenge is tea party-aligned lawmakers who don't want to include in that bill any funding for President Obama's health care law. NPR's David Welna reports.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: At a White House event today aimed at pivoting from the Syria crisis to boosting the economy, President Obama excoriated what he called some Republicans in the House of Representatives who are promising to shut down the government at the end of the month if they can't shut down the Affordable Care Act.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Are some of these folks really sold, beholden to one extreme wing of their party that they're willing to tank the entire economy just because they can't get their way on this issue? Are they really willing to hurt people just to score political points?

WELNA: There was no immediate reply from House Republicans. The GOP-led House has remained out of session since last Thursday while the Democratic-led Senate adjourned after just a five-minute session citing today's shooting rampage at Washington's Navy Yard.

Yesterday on ABC's "This Week," Michigan House Republican Justin Amash called on colleagues to pass a stopgap funding bill that would bar any spending on the new health care law.

REP. JUSTIN AMASH: Everything, except Obamacare, send it to the Senate, send the Republican version to the Senate. Let them negotiate on it, and we'll try to come up with a compromise. But you can't start where the Democrats want us to start. You have to start with a Republican proposal. We have a Republican majority that was elected by Republicans. Let's start with a Republican proposal.

WELNA: House GOP leaders are wary of stripping funding from the Affordable Care Act. But their plan to make that merely an option for the Senate ran into fierce resistance last week from a few dozen tea party-aligned conservatives. By Thursday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor seemed to be singing their tune.

MAJORITY LEADER ERIC CANTOR: We need to sit down and discuss with this administration how we're going to affect the reforms that we need on the entitlement side, affect the delay of Obamacare. That's what we've got to do.

WELNA: But by demanding a defunding of Obamacare, longtime budget watcher Stan Collender says House Republicans risk damaging their party's prospects since polls indicate Republicans would take most of the blame for a shutdown.

STAN COLLENDER: What House Republicans may well be doing is threatening the ability of Republicans to take over the Senate or the White House anytime soon. In fact, I've had a number of House Republicans tell me that their goal is just to keep the House, and therefore, they're going to continue to be hardliners.

WELNA: Because, as Collender notes, many of those hardliners are in solidly conservative districts where their reelection is a given. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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