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Obama challenges GOP on health care; conservatives seek vote on defunding

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WASHINGTON – A potential federal shutdown looming, President Barack Obama on Monday warned congressional Republicans they could trigger national “economic chaos” if they demand a delay of his health care law as the price for supporting continued spending for federal operations.

House Republican leaders were to meet today in hopes of finding a formula that would avoid a shutdown on Oct. 1 without alienating party conservatives who insist on votes to undercut the Affordable Care Act. Even more daunting is a mid- to late-October deadline for raising the nation’s borrowing limit, which some Republicans also want to use as leverage against the Obama administration.

“Are some of these folks really so beholden to one extreme wing of their party that they’re willing to tank the entire economy just because they can’t get their way on this issue?” Obama said in a speech at the White House. “Are they really willing to hurt people just to score political points?”

The Republicans don’t see it that way.

House Speaker John Boehner, who opposes the threat of a shutdown, said, “It’s a shame that the president could not manage to rise above partisanship today.” Obama, said Boehner, “should be working in a bipartisan way to address America’s spending problem, the way presidents of both parties have done before,” and should delay implementation of the health care law.

While some conservatives supported by the tea party have been making shutdown threats, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said Monday that was “a dumb idea.” At a community meeting in Louisville, he said, “We should fight for what we believe in and then maybe we find something in between the two. … I am for the debate, I am for fighting. I don’t want to shut the government down, though. I think that’s a bad solution.”

House GOP leaders hope to make a decision this week on advancing a temporary spending measure designed to prevent a shutdown in two weeks. Conservatives are pressing Boehner and other GOP leaders to include a provision that would block implementation of Obama’s health care law.

Chances are fading for a complicated GOP leadership plan that would allow the House to also vote to “defund Obamacare” but automatically separate the measures when delivering them to the Senate to ease the way for quick passage of a “clean” funding measure for delivery to Obama.

The next steps aren’t clear, but one option under consideration is to accede to conservatives’ demands to deliver to the Democratic Senate a combined bill that pays for government and defunds the health care law. The Senate would be virtually certain to strip away the attack on the health care law and bounce the funding measure right back to the House.

Obama intends to continue pressuring Congress with daily events this week, including a speech Wednesday to the Business Roundtable.

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