Shutdown looming: Weekend showdown at the Capitol

WASHINGTON (AP) — Time running short, the

Democratic-controlled Senate passed urgent legislation Friday to avert a

government

shutdown early next week, and President Barack Obama lectured

House Republicans to stop "appeasing the tea party" and quickly

follow suit.

Despite the presidential plea — and the urgings of their own leaders — House GOP rebels showed no sign of retreat in their

drive to use the threat of a shutdown to uproot the nation's three-year-old health care law.

"We now move on to the next stage of this

battle," said Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who is a face of the

"Defund Obamacare"

campaign in the Senate and is in close contact with allies in the

House.

First effects of a shutdown could show up as early as Tuesday if Congress fails to approve money to keep the government going

by the Monday-midnight start of the new fiscal year.

"Think about who you are hurting" if government services are interrupted, the president said at the White House, as House

Speaker John Boehner pondered his next move in a fast-unfolding showdown — not only between Republicans and Democrats but

between GOP leaders and conservative insurgents.

Despite Obama's appeal, the Senate-passed measure faces a swift demise in the House at the hands of tea party conservatives

who are adamantly opposed to funding that the measure includes for the three-year-old health care law.

The Senate's 54-44 vote was strictly along party lines in favor of the bill, which would keep the government operating routinely

through Nov. 15.

The immediate impacts of a shutdown would be

felt unevenly. Soldiers, air traffic controllers and many other federal

workers

would remain on the job. Social Security payments would still go

out. But national parks would close to visitors. There would

be problems for homebuyers seeking government-backed mortgages and

for people applying for some other programs. Delays and

closings would spread if a shutdown last for long.

Friday's Senate vote masked a ferocious struggle for control of the Republican Party pitting Boehner and Senate Leader Mitch

McConnell against rebels led by relatively junior lawmakers, Cruz and Mike Lee of Utah and a few dozen allies in the House

among them.

The outcome of that contest — more than differences between the two political parties — is likely to determine whether the

government shuts down for the first time in nearly two decades.

Cruz told reporters he had had numerous

conversations with fellow conservatives in recent days, adding, "I am

confident the

House of Representatives will continue to stand its ground,

continue to listen to the American people and ... stop this train

wreck, this nightmare that is Obamacare."

The House is scheduled to be in session both Saturday and Sunday, but it is unclear when it will vote on a new bill to avert

a shutdown, and what health care-related items it will include.

Obama spoke more than an hour later at the

White House, where he said it was up to House Republicans to follow the

Senate's

lead and prevent a shutdown. He said the struggle has nothing to

do with budget deficits, and said if Republicans "have specific

ideas on how to genuinely improve the (health care) law rather

than gut it, rather than delay, it rather than repeal it, I

am happy to work with them."

He also said even a shutdown would not prevent the scheduled opening of so-called health care exchanges next Tuesday through

which millions of Americans will be able to shop for coverage. "That's a done deal," he said

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Boehner,

issued a statement in response that said, "The House will take action

that reflects

the fundamental fact that Americans don't want a government

shutdown and they don't want the train wreck that is Obamacare.

Grandstanding from the president, who refuses to even be a part of

the process, won't bring Congress any closer to a resolution."

Republican lawmakers said Boehner had made

it clear he would continue to seek health care-related concessions from

the White

House when the House passes its next shutdown-prevention

legislation. But the rank and file rebelled on Thursday when leaders

suggested moving the main focus of the effort to defund Obamacare

to a separate bill rather than continue to flirt with a

shutdown.

There is little or no disagreement between

the House and Senate over spending levels in the legislation now moving

from one

side of the Capitol to the other, and except for health care,

passage might well be routine. The bill provides funds at an

annual rate of slightly more than $986 billion, in keeping with an

agreement Obama and Republicans made two years ago to restrain

the growth of a wide swath of government spending from the

Pentagon to the nation's parks.

Without separate legislation to make further

reductions, across-the-board cuts will automatically take effect early

next year

that will reduce the level to $967 billion, and Republicans are

fond of pointing out that the government is on track to spend

less on those programs for the second year in a row — for the

first time since the Korean War.

But Republicans voted unanimously against

the health care law when it passed Congress, backed lawsuits to

challenge its constitutionality,

and some now seek to strangle it before its final implementation

begins next Tuesday.

Cruz, Lee and several tea party groups

seized on the issue during Congress' five week summer vacation, turning

"Defund Obamacare"

into a rallying cry backed by television commercials, public

rallies and emails.

The result was a bruising week in the Senate in which Cruz spoke for slightly more than 21 hours straight in hopes of swaying

some votes his way, only to lose by far on the showdown that he described as the crucial one.

That was a proposal by Senate Majority

Leader Harry Reid to cut off debate on the spending bill, a move that

also meant Democrats

needed a mere majority of the votes to restore money for the

health care law that the House had omitted.

The vote was 79-19, 19 more than the 60

needed to cut off debate. All 52 Democrats, two independents and 25 of

44 Republicans

voted in favor. That included McConnell and much of the GOP

leadership with the exception of Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, who

heads the party's campaign committee.

McConnell had said repeatedly it made no sense to block legislation to prevent a shutdown and defund Obamacare, both of which

Republicans support.

Cruz and Lee argued otherwise in what amounted to a direct challenge to McConnell's leadership, but drew the support of only

17 other Republicans.

Reid excoriated tea party Republicans in remarks before the votes, and said they support "a shutdown that would shatter the

economy."

Reprising a theme he has used in recent days, he added, "A bad day for government is a good day for the anarchists among us."

McConnell, who faces a primary challenger as

he seeks a new Senate term in Kentucky, focused his remarks almost

exclusively

on the health care law rather than the turmoil in the party he

leads. "Republicans are united on the need to repeal Obamacare,"

he said. "The American people want this bill repealed. ... I

wouldn't be surprised if a number of our Democrat colleagues

secretly want it repealed."