Senate Democrats said Thursday that House Republican leaders have abdicated their power to "far-right" members of the party and are wasting their time by threatening to defund Obamacare as part of a spending deal to avert a government shutdown.
"I want to be absolutely crystal clear — any bill that defunds Obamacare is dead, dead," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said.
Congress must act quickly to pass a continuing resolution that funds federal operations past Sept. 30, but House Speaker John A. Boehner bowed to the right wing of his caucus this week by allowing the chamber to include a provision that defunds President Obama's health care law.
The resolution is scheduled for a vote on Friday.
Assuming Senate Democrats toss the House plan aside and send back a clean resolution, the House GOP plans to request a one-year delay to the Affordable Care Act as a pre-condition for any deal to extend the government's borrowing authority.
Senate Democrats openly mocked the GOP leadership at a news conference, saying they could save themselves the trouble and embarrassment caused by a potential shutdown by putting forward measures that fund the government and lift the debt ceiling without touching the health care law.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, said it is clear that tea party members of the House GOP are calling the shots.
"They've been handed the keys to the Republican Party by a reluctant leadership," he said.
The gridlock on Capitol Hill, Mr. Reid warned, could have "deadly serious" consequences for the American public.
"These are not just games to middle-class Americans," he said.
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