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Originally published September 12, 2013 at 8:21 PM | Page modified September 13, 2013 at 8:36 AM

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Government shutdown closer as GOP divided on health-care action

Much of the federal government will shut down Oct. 1 unless Congress approves new spending bills to replace expiring ones, and by mid-October, the Treasury Department will lose the borrowing authority to finance the government and pay its debts.

The New York Times

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WASHINGTON — With the Syria strike on hold, lawmakers plunged back into their fiscal standoff Thursday as Speaker John Boehner appealed to the Obama administration and Democratic leaders to help him resolve divisions in the Republican ranks that could lead to a government shutdown by month’s end.

In meetings with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders Thursday after a session with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Wednesday, Boehner sought a resumption of negotiations that could keep the government running and yield a deficit-reduction deal that would persuade recalcitrant conservatives to raise the government’s borrowing limit.

Much of the federal government will shut down Oct. 1 unless Congress approves new spending bills to replace expiring ones, and by mid-October, the Treasury Department will lose the borrowing authority to finance the government and pay its debts.

“It’s time for the president’s party to show the courage to work with us to solve this problem,” said Boehner, who argued that budget deals have been part of past agreements to raise the debt limit

But a bloc of 43 House Republicans undercut the speaker’s deficit-reduction focus, introducing yearlong funding legislation that would increase Pentagon and veterans spending and delay President Obama’s health-care law for a year — most likely adding to the budget deficit. That bloc is large enough to thwart any compromise that does not attract Democratic support.

“Obamacare is the most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed in Congress,” said Rep. John Fleming, R-La.

Just five scheduled legislative days stand between the House and a government shutdown that has loomed for months. As of now, Republican leaders appear to have no idea how to stop it. House members are preparing for the worst. Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., began circulating a 14-page fact sheet on the impact of a government shutdown.

Lew and congressional Democrats held firm that they would no longer negotiate on raising the debt ceiling, which they see as the duty of the party in power in the House.

And they made it clear to the speaker that they would never accept Republican demands to repeal, defund or delay the health-care law. White House officials dismissed it as “a nonstarter.”

“I had to be very candid with him and I told him directly, all these things they’re doing on Obamacare are just a waste of their time,” said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate majority leader. “Their direction is the direction toward shutting down the government.”

This week, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 House Republican, proposed a two-step resolution to the fiscal impasse.

Under Cantor’s plan, the House would have voted this week on a stopgap spending bill to keep the government operating through mid-December at the current level, which reflects sharp, across-the-board cuts known as sequestration. That bill would have a companion resolution to withhold all money for the health-care law, but the Senate could simply ignore that resolution and approve the short-term spending bill.

Then the House would vote to raise the debt ceiling enough for a year of borrowing, but demand a year’s delay in carrying out the health-care law.

Within 24 hours, the House’s most ardent conservatives revolted, declaring the defunding resolution a gimmick that fell short of their drive to undo the health-care law. House Democrats said they would oppose not only stripping the health-care law of money but also a spending level that maintains sequestration.

The vote was delayed indefinitely as House Republicans resumed their search for a measure that could unite them.

With no resolution in sight, Republican leaders said decisions would have to be made next week on a way forward — with Democratic votes, or Republican unity. But Boehner gave no indication he knew which way to turn.

“There are a million options that are being discussed by a lot of people,” he said. “When we have something to report, we’ll let you know.”

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