Congress Draws Lines for Government Shutdown

Republicans divided, Democrats won’t give on Obamacare and the whole thing could mean a shutdown.

House Speaker John Boehner has brushed aside accusations that he couldn't control his conference.

House Speaker John Boehner has brushed aside accusations that he couldn't control his conference.

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Just as Congress was getting its approval rating up, political posturing over the budget has crept back to Capitol Hill.

Thursday morning, Congress's approval rating was the highest it has been all year at 19 percent, according to a new poll.

For two weeks, Americans applauded as Congress defied party boundaries and debated the prospect of a conflict with Syria. Democrats and libertarians coalesced behind public opinion against a military strike, while GOP defense giants and loyal Democrats got in line behind the president.

[OPINION: The Tea Party's 'Defund Obamacare' Push Is Just Silly]

Now, the battle lines have been restored.

Congress has fewer than three weeks to pass a continuing resolution and keep the country from shutting down, but a small minority of House Republicans are standing in the way.

Wednesday, House leaders announced they'd postpone a vote on their continuing resolution bill because they didn't have a majority of their caucus behind them. It was deja vu of the times House Republicans rejected Speaker John Boehner's fiscal package in January, as well as the vote in February when the Republican version of the Violence Against Women's Act failed to attract enough Republicans, and finally the summer vote when the farm bill faced its demise on the House floor.

"I feel bad for [Boehner]. I really do," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Thursday during a press conference.

[REPORT: Effort to Kill Obamacare With Shutdown Won't Work]

Boehner wasn't looking for pity. During his earlier press conference, the speaker brushed aside accusations that he couldn't control his conference.

"We are working with our colleagues to work our way through these issues," Boehner said.

A reporter shouted "Are you spent dealing these guys?"

"No. I'm fine," Boehner said, standing firm.

The conflict between the tea party faction in the House GOP and the more moderate members doesn't seem close to over. The far-right is fed up with show votes to repeal Obamacare. They know the Senate won't ever vote on the legislation no matter how many dozens of bills they send over. Their new obsession is to defund the bill through the CR.

Leadership can't let that happen though. Politically, its a loser with the majority of Americans. And in practicality, the Congressional Research Service has evidence that it might not even work, considering most of the president's bill is funded through other channels.

[READ: Bill Clinton's Obamacare Pitch Long on Details, Short on Passion]

Democrats don't appear interested in holding a vote on anything that would defund Obamacare, whether its the continuing resolution or not.

Instead, they pleaded with Boehner to stop appeasing his rank-and-file, introduce a frill-free continuing resolution that doesn't touch Obamacare, and count on House Democrats to get the 217 votes he needs to pass the funding bill

"They want to keep debating Obamacare, but there is a time and place for everything," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "It is called the election of 2014.

He didn't mask that Democrats believe that they are the ones who stand to benefit politically if Boehner doesn't pass a CR.

"If they succeed in their platform, they will fail the way Mitt Romney failed," Schumer says. "They will lose."

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CORRECTION 09/13/13: A previous version of this story misidentified a quote from Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.