AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. The battle lines are drawn. House Republicans passed a budget bill today that did not include funding for the Affordable Care Act and President Obama took the fiscal fight to America's Heartland. Speaking at a Ford assembly plant near Kansas City today, he warned that if Congress doesn't pass a spending bill and raise the debt limit, the U.S. could turn into deadbeat.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I need you to help tell Congress, pay our bills on time. Pass a budget on time. Stop governing from crisis to crisis. Put our focus back on where it should be, on you, the American people, on creating new jobs, on growing our economy, on restoring security for middle class families. That's what you deserve.
CORNISH: Congressional Republicans are pushing the president, using the budget deadlines to extract concessions on his signature health care law. And as NPR's Scott Horsley reports, it's not just the far right that's testing the president's mettle.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Today's visit to the Ford factory might have been a happy occasion for the president. His rescue of the auto industry's worked out so well, Ford just added a third shift to the plant. And in less than two weeks, the insurance exchanges, created by Obama's namesake health care law, are supposed to open for business. But Republicans are still trying to undo that law, which passed over their strenuous objections in 2010.
Today, Obama complained about the latest tactic from House Republicans, stripping all funding for Obamacare from the federal budget as a condition for paying the rest of the government's bills.
OBAMA: I'm happy to have that debate with them, but you don't have to threaten to blow the whole thing up just 'cause you don't get your way. Right?
HORSLEY: That's just what Republicans in the House did earlier today. GOP House Speaker John Boehner effectively dared the president to give up his health care plan if he wants to keep the government open.
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: It's time for us to say no. It's time to stop this before it causes any more damage to American families and American businesses.
HORSLEY: Boehner himself has acknowledged the risks of holding the budget and the debt limit hostage to the health care fight. He and other GOP leaders know a government shutdown could backfire on Republicans. Still, the House speaker's hand was forced by the most conservative members of his own party.
BOEHNER: Whenever we're trying to put together a plan, you know, we've got 233 members, all of whom have their own plan. It's tough to get them on the same track. We got there.
HORSLEY: Tea Party Republicans are hoping the president might blink, but liberal Democrats have been testing Obama as well. In recent weeks, progressive activists helped scuttle the president's plan to attack Syria and forced his first choice to be Federal Reserve chairman, Larry Summers, to drop out of the running.
Adam Green head one activist group called The Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
ADAM GREEN: Democrats, in general, are thinking beyond Obama and are willing to stand up to him if he's not representing the will of the people.
HORSLEY: Obama still enjoys strong support among Democrats, but Green says progressives will be watching closely how the president handles the budget battle in the coming weeks.
GREEN: During 2012, there was some hesitance to criticize the president up for reelection, but right now, the general attitude is, we want to go on offense, not play defense.
HORSLEY: Pulled hard from the left, pushed hard by the right, the president enters the fights of this fall hearing more from his challengers than champions. Scott Horsley, NPR News, The White House.