The Senate is poised to pass a measure to keep the federal government running past Tuesday, but it will set in motion a process that could end up accomplishing the opposite.
The anticipated passage of a temporary spending bill — known as a "continuing resolution" — to fund the government for another six weeks would send it to the House, but without language defunding the Affordable Care Act that Republicans insist must be there.
On Wednesday, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, ended a 21-hour speech railing against Obamacare and insisting that the Senate measure include language to block its funding.
As The New York Times writes, the Senate vote expected Friday "[will] set up a game of legislative Ping-Pong that will tip the government perilously close to shutting down on Tuesday." The paper adds:
"Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, has said he would reject anything but a plain budget bill, including Republican suggestions to delay the health care law or to repeal a tax on medical devices that would help pay for it.
"But House Republicans and Speaker John A. Boehner seem intent on not surrendering the budget fight without wresting concessions from the Democratic-controlled Senate and President Obama."
If the two sides can't compromise by a Monday-night deadline, a partial shutdown of federal agencies would begin first thing Tuesday, resulting in the furloughing of tens of thousands of workers.
No vote is expected in the House until at least the weekend, The Associated Press reports.
The Washington Post reports that Boehner on Thursday tried but failed to persuade the most conservative bloc of Republicans to "shift their assault on President Obama's health-care law to the coming fight over the federal debt limit." No dice.
The Post says "about two dozen hard-liners rejected that approach, saying they will not talk about the debt limit until the battle over government funding is resolved."
The AP says:
"At one point Thursday, GOP divisions burst into full view on the Senate floor as a pair of conservatives, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, forced the Senate to wait until Friday to approve its bill preventing a shutdown. ...
"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., accused the conservatives of 'a big, big stall.' "
NPR's Tamara Keith reports on Morning Edition that should a shutdown be averted in the eleventh hour, the fight to defund Obamacare — along with a long list of other Republican demands — will simply shift to the next fight: raising the debt ceiling.