Moving closer to the brink of a government shutdown, House Republicans vowed Thursday they won't simply accept the stopgap legislation that is likely to remain after Senate Democrats strip away a plan to dismantle President Barack Obama's health care law.
A sense of confusion settled over the House, both over how to avoid a shutdown and how to handle even more important legislation to increase the government's borrowing ability to avert a default on U.S. obligations. Short of votes, House leaders shelved a vote that had been expected this weekend on the debt limit measure and gave frustrated GOP lawmakers few clues about what they plan to do to avoid a shutdown.
The chaos sets the stage for weekend drama on Capitol Hill, with the Senate planning to send the fractious House a straightforward bill Friday to keep the government operating through Nov. 15 rather than partly closing down at midnight Monday.
Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and several rank-and-file Republicans said the House simply won't accept a "clean" spending measure, even though that's been the norm in Congress on dozens of occasions since the 1995-96 government closures that bruised Republicans and strengthened the hand of Democratic President Bill Clinton.
"I don't see that happening," Boehner said. Still, he declared that "I have no interest in a government shutdown" and he doesn't expect one to occur on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the Democratic-led chamber will not relent.
"The Senate will never pass a bill that guts the Affordable Care Act," Reid declared.
A partial government shutdown would keep hundreds of thousands of federal workers off the job, close national parks and generate damaging headlines for whichever side the public held responsible.
Washington faces two deadlines: The Oct. 1 start of the new budget year and a mid-October date - now estimated for the 17th - when the government can no longer borrow money to pay its bills on time and in full.