WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Monday that 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, and a vote could come as late as this weekend to sustain government funding levels through mid-December. A cadre of Republicans, led by Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, 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. Cruz again spoke on the Senate floor later Monday in which he made his case against the health care law as harmful to the economy.
"This law is hurting the American people, and it's why there is bipartisan consensus outside of Washington D.C. that we need to step up and stop it," Cruz said. The Texas Republican also sought to flip the perception that congressional Republicans would be to blame if a shutdown occurs. "(Reid) is willing to force even a government shutdown in order to insist that Obamacare is funded," Cruz said.
More than a dozen Senate Republicans have been critical of Cruz's procedural tactics, although there is unanimous GOP opposition to the law. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced Monday that he would oppose a filibuster underscoring the reality that Reid has the 60 votes he will need to move forward with the bill.
Congressional Republicans are waging a two-pronged war against Obamacare, which begins open enrollment Oct. 1. The GOP seeks to defund the law on the stopgap spending bill. As a backstop, Republicans also seek to delay implementation of the law for a year as part of a vote to raise the debt ceiling, the nation's borrowing limit, probably by mid-October.
Friday, the GOP-led House passed a stopgap spending bill that would keep the government running through Dec. 15 at the current annual $986 billion funding levels. Republicans also attached legislation that would 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. 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.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that Obama will "likely" meet with congressional leaders soon to discuss the budget stalemate. The president has said he would support a stopgap spending measure that does not affect the healthcare law, and he has vowed not to negotiate over the terms of a debt ceiling increase. "He's made it abundantly clear that fiddling around with the prospect of default is utterly irresponsible and we cannot do it," Carney said.
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, 71% of which say lawmakers should not compromise. Just 20% of Republicans say they want compromise.