WASHINGTON -- The GOP-controlled House voted Friday to cripple President Barack Obama's health care law as part of a risky ploy that threatens a government shutdown in a week and a half.
The fight is coming on a stopgap funding measure required to keep the government fully running after the Oct. 1 start of the new budget year. Typically, such measures advance with sweeping bipartisan support, but tea party activists forced GOP leaders -- against their better judgment -- to add a provision to cripple the health care law that's the signature accomplishment of Obama's first term.
It was the 42nd time the House voted against the Affordable Care Act.
The 230-189 vote sets the stage for a confrontation with the Democratic-led Senate, which promises to strip the health care provision from the bill next week and challenge the House to pass it as a simple, straightforward funding bill that President Barack Obama will sign.
The top Senate Democrat has pronounced the bill dead and calls the House exercise a waste of time. The White House promises Obama will veto the measure in the unlikely event it reaches his desk.
The temporary funding bill is needed because Washington's longstanding budget stalemate has derailed the annual appropriations bills required to fund federal agency operations.
The fight over the must-do funding bill comes as Washington is bracing for an even bigger battle over increasing the government's borrowing cap to make sure the government can pay its bills. Democrats say they won't be held hostage and allow Republicans to use the must-pass measures as leverage to win legislative victories that they otherwise couldn't.
The No. 2 House Democrat, Steny Hoyer of Maryland said the GOP ploy is a blatant act of hostage-taking fueled by Republicans' destructive obsession with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and its unrestrained hostility towards government.
Republicans countered that defunding Obamacare is required to prevent a government shutdown that would delay pay for federal workers, send non-essential federal workers home, close national parks and shutter passport offices.
If this legislation is not enacted and we embark on a government shutdown, the consequences are severe, said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has sought to reassure the public and financial markets that Republicans have no interest in either a partial government shutdown when the budget year ends or a first-ever default on a broader set of U.S. obligations when the government runs out of borrowing ability by mid- to late October.
Let me be very clear, Boehner said Thursday. Republicans have no interest in defaulting on our debt -- none.
GOP leaders want to skirt the shutdown confrontation and seek concessions when addressing the need to raise the debt ceiling next month, but Obama says he won't be forced into making concessions as he did in the 2011 debt crisis, when he accepted $2.1 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years.
Meanwhile, a GOP family feud simmered. Many Republicans in both the House and the Senate see the defund Obamacare strategy as futile and faulted architects Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, for whipping up expectations among tea party lawmakers that the fight could be effectively waged.
A key part of the law, the opening of state insurance exchanges, is set to take effect Oct. 1, so the effort to gut the health care law has added urgency among conservative activists.