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Congress Engages in Obamacare Spending Standoff Days Before Budget Deadline

September 19, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
House Republicans plan to eliminate funding for the Affordable Care Act as part of a spending bill that would keep the government running past October 1. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said any bill that defunds health care reform won't survive the Senate. Gwen Ifill reports on the budget battle.

GWEN IFILL: Our lead story tonight: Republicans and Democrats were locked in a standoff over the president’s health care law and federal spending. The test of wills plays out with just 11 days until a potential government shutdown.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio: We will deliver a big victory in the House tomorrow. Then this fight will move over to the Senate, where it belongs.

SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev.: So, in case there’s any shred of doubt in the minds of our House counterparts, I want to be absolutely crystal clear: Any bill that defunds Obamacare is dead, dead.

GWEN IFILL: On Capitol Hill today, neither side ready to blink. The president is digging his heels in, too, vowing to veto any attempt to eliminate funding for the health care law.

But House Republicans plan to try to kill Obamacare tomorrow anyway, as part of a spending bill needed to keep the government running past October 1. Speaker Boehner said the House will pass the bill, and his counterparts across the Capitol should too.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: I expect my Senate colleagues to do everything they can to defund this law, just like the House is going to do.

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GWEN IFILL: Whether they will remains unclear. Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, a driving force behind the effort in the House and the Senate, said he will not back down.

SEN. TED CRUZ, R-Tex.: I will do everything necessary and anything possible to defund Obamacare.

QUESTION: Filibuster?

TED CRUZ: Yes, and anything else, any procedural means necessary.

GWEN IFILL: But some Republicans are reluctant. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker dismissed the entire strategy via Twitter. He wrote: “I didn’t go to Harvard or Princeton, but I can count — the defunding box canyon is a tactic that will fail and weaken our position.”

Democrats were happy to highlight Republican disagreement.

Majority Leader Harry Reid:

HARRY REID: There’s really some wrangling among the ranks, not only among the Republicans in the House, but now we have got battles going among Republicans in the House and Republicans in the Senate. So let’s just wait and see if they have a stomach for closing the government.

GWEN IFILL: After tomorrow’s vote, House Republicans are preparing to move right on to the next fiscal fight, this time over raising the national debt limit, their approach, to link its passage to implementing a one-year delay in the health care law.

But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney suggested any such proposal is not worth discussing.

JAY CARNEY, White House Press Secretary: It’s unconscionable to imagine that there are those in the Congress and now, apparently, because he couldn’t persuade them otherwise, the speaker of the House has joined them who believe that it is the right thing to do to threaten another recession, threaten economic calamity in this country and the globe over their ideological desire to defund or delay the Affordable Care Act.

GWEN IFILL: The Treasury now estimates the government will reach its borrowing limit, which would mean defaulting on its debts, sometime between late October and early November.