The Republican infatuation with defunding the Affordable Care Act, even at the cost of shutting down the government, may pay off.
After months of campaigning, conservatives in the House will get their chance to cut off funding for President Barack Obama's signature health care legislation, key parts of which are set to take effect Oct. 1.
A House aide confirmed that House Speaker John Boehner will discuss the upcoming vote with his caucus Wednesday. However, Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said no decision was final until the entire GOP conference was briefed.
It could signal a major victory for the coalition of tea party Republicans that has coalesced around the plan, but faced strong headwinds from the GOP leadership and moderate members within the caucus who dismissed the idea as misguided.
It marks a major tactical shift for Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who one week ago were advocating for members to fall in line on a continuing resolution to keep the government going in exchange for a "whale of a fight" on the next fiscal showdown, the debt ceiling.
Last week, leaders tried to garner enough votes for a bill that would force the Senate to vote to cut funding to Obamacare, but had an escape hatch. Under that proposal, the Senate would vote on the defund plan, but in the likely event it did not pass, the body could move onto a clean continuing resolution that would keep the government funded and Obamacare in place. House Republicans rejected leadership's attempts to placate them, backing Boehner into a corner.
If the bill to stop Obamacare passes in the House, the burden will fall to conservative senators to make the case to more middle-of-the-road Republicans in the upper chamber. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, David Vitter, R-La., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, have been leading the efforts in the Senate, but even fellow Republicans have been skeptical of their efforts.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., released a Congressional Research Service report in July showing Obamacare couldn't be stopped by cutting off its funding in the continuing resolution. The report showed the president's health care legislation was paid for through separate funding channels. And Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., called it the "dumbest idea I've ever heard."
"I don't see the president, at the end of the day agreeing to defund Obamacare," says Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "I don't see that being a good tactical choice."
Democrats in the Senate are expected to strip out the defunding Obamacare language from the legislation and send it back to the house as a no-frills funding bill. If the House refuses to take it up, it could lead to a government shutdown.
The White House reiterated Tuesday that it would not engage in negotiations on the continuing resolution, especially any plan to stop the president's health care law from being implemented.
"The president's been clear. I've been clear. Efforts to either defund or delay the Affordable Care Act are unacceptable," Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said during an economic speech Tuesday.