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House Republicans leery of 'Obamacare' defunding idea

A Tea Party member reaches for a pamphlet titled "The Impact of Obamacare", at a "Food for Free Minds Tea Party Rally" in Littleton, New Ham
A Tea Party member reaches for a pamphlet titled "The Impact of Obamacare", at a "Food for Free Minds Tea Party Rally" in Littleton, New Ham

By Richard Cowan and Caren Bohan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Tea Party-inspired plan to kill President Barack Obama's healthcare law by forcing a government shutdown unless funds to implement the law are denied has not gained traction among senior Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, lawmakers said on Wednesday.

"I think leadership is giving other options that they think are more effective," said Republican Representative Pat Tiberi, a close ally of House Speaker John Boehner.

Tiberi, speaking to Reuters following a closed-door meeting of House Republicans, said that while a final decision probably had not been made, his colleagues are more likely to continue pushing for Congress to repeal individual provisions of "Obamacare."

Republicans have been on a continuous campaign to kill Obama's landmark healthcare law, which aims to help provide medical insurance for millions of people who cannot afford it on their own. They argue that the law, which is taking effect in stages, will discourage job creation and saddle businesses with higher costs.

Tea Party-backed conservatives in the Senate, including Senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, have been trying to persuade enough of their fellow Republicans to join them in a high-stakes gamble that would threaten a government shutdown on the start of the new fiscal year, October 1, unless legislation to keep Washington operating specifically defunds Obamacare.

More senior Senate Republicans have savaged the idea, with some calling it "dumb," "silly," "feckless" and "dishonest."

On September 30, federal funding expires for hundreds of federal programs, ranging from military activities and NASA space exploration to federal parks, education and job training.

A dozen funding bills for the fiscal year starting on October 1 are pending in Congress but are unlikely to be completed by that deadline.

The result is that Congress will either have to pass a temporary funding bill, called a continuing resolution or CR, or risk government closings. Tea Party-backed senators who want to attach the Obamacare provision have complicated already difficult negotiations over government spending levels.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, asked about chances of his chamber going along with demands of Tea Party-backed senators on the funding bill, told reporters: "This is just something the White House will not accept and we've got to have a CR."

Representative Tom Cole, another longtime House Republican, told reporters that he had seen "an awful lot of push-back" on the idea, adding, "I don't sense that there's nearly enough unanimity in either the Senate or the House Republican conferences to push an approach like that."

With Congress about to start a month-long break, Boehner said he will keep mulling ways to tackle end-of-fiscal-year funding problems.

"I'm confident that when we get into the fall, it may be a messy process, but I suspect we'll find a way to deal with it," Boehner told reporters.

(Editing by Vicki Allen)

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