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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vows health law will not be defunded

5:20 PM, Sep 23, 2013   |    comments
The Capitol is seen at sunrise in Washington, Monday, Jan. 7, 2013
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WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Monday Republicans face two options by week's end: accept a stopgap spending bill that leaves untouched President Obama's health care law, or shut down the government.

"We're not going to bow to Tea Party anarchists who deny the mere fact that Obamacare is the law," Reid said, "We will not bow to Tea Party anarchists who refuse to accept that the Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare is constitutional."

Debate on the stopgap spending bill will consume Senate debate this week, with a vote expected as late as this weekend to sustain current government funding levels through mid-December. A cadre of Republicans, led by Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, and Mike Lee of Utah, have vowed to use every Senate procedural delaying tactic to prolong the debate.

Cruz appeared on the Senate floor with Reid and immediately objected to a mundane motion to consider nominations, an early sign that he intends to make good on his pledge.

Congressional Republicans are waging a two-pronged war against Obamacare, which begins open enrollment on Oct. 1. The GOP is seeking to defund the law on the stopgap spending bill. As a backstop, Republicans are also seeking to delay implementation of the law for a year as part of a vote to raise the debt ceiling, the nation's borrowing limit, expected by mid-October.

The GOP-led House passed on Friday a stopgap spending bill to keep the government running through Dec. 15 at the current annual $986 billion funding levels. However, Republicans also attached legislation to defund the president's health care law. The Senate will take up the spending bill this week, and strip out the Obamacare language before sending it back to the House.

At that point, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, will have three options: reject it, approve it, or amend it and send it back to the Senate again. But if the Senate runs out the clock on debate, a vote could come as late as Sunday giving House Republicans little more than 24 hours to respond. A shutdown would begin Oct. 1.

The Pew Research Center released a poll Monday showing the public would blame Republicans, 39%, about as much as they would President Obama, 36%, if the government shuts down. The public is almost evenly divided over whether they believe a deal will be cut by the Sept. 30 deadline: 46% say a deal will be reached, 45% say no deal.

A clear majority, 57%, want lawmakers to compromise and avert a shutdown, while one-third want lawmakers to stand their ground, even if it means a shutdown. Support for a shutdown is driven by self-identified Tea Party Republicans, with 71% saying lawmakers should not compromise. Just 20% of Republicans say they want compromise.

Susan Davis, USA TODAY

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