WASHINGTON - The House of Representatives has voted 40 times to repeal or curtail the Affordable Care Act since Republicans took control of the chamber in 2011 - and each time the Democratic Senate has swatted away their bills.
In using the threat of a government shutdown as leverage, House Republicans will vote Friday on legislation they view as their single best opportunity to block the president’s signature legislative accomplishment just as it is about to take hold.
Much of the federal government will cease operation at month’s end unless Congress passes new legislation, referred to as a continuing resolution, to keep the lights on. The House will vote to do just that - extend the existing funding levels for another 75 days - but with a catch: The legislation includes an amendment to prohibit funding to implement the new healthcare law.
The "defund Obamacare" effort has been championed by conservative Republican lawmakers and independent groups such as the Heritage Foundation and Club for Growth.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) spent much of the August recess traveling the country urging party activists to pressure Republicans to support the showdown with President Obama over the Affordable Care Act.
Facing pressure from their conservative flank, House Republican leaders, initially lukewarm to such an approach, ultimately agreed this week to adopt it, setting the stage for Friday's vote.
"The law is a train wreck, and it's going to raise costs. It's destroying American jobs, and it must go," House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday. "We'll deliver a big victory in the House tomorrow, then this fight will move over to the Senate, where it belongs."
House leaders were confident they would have the votes needed to pass the measure, though some members have been critical of the approach.
If the House vote is successful Friday, the Senate will begin its debate on the measure Tuesday. Democrats in the Senate have mocked Republicans for what they call the party's obsession with repeal efforts, and they vowed to simply return a "clean" funding bill to the House next week.
"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. It's a waste of time," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters.
Though Democrats control 54 seats, including those of two independents, Cruz has vowed to use "any procedural means necessary" to force Democrats to adopt the House measure in full. But Obama could still veto such a bill if it were to emerge from Congress.
While the House votes Friday, the president will be traveling to Kansas City for an event at a Ford plant to tout America’s economic recovery five years after the economic collapse. A White House official said the president would argue that "a minority of Republicans" was now threatening "to throw our economy back into crisis by refusing to pay our country's bills or shutting down the government."
Congress has until Oct. 1 to pass a funding bill or the government will shut down for the first time since the mid-1990s.
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