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Republicans Rally Around Bid to Defund Obamacare

Douglas Graham/Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Congressional Republicans appear to be moving past divisions within their ranks to unite in their quest to defund the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and pressure Senate Democrats to pass a spending bill that President Obama has threatened to veto.

Sen. Ted Cruz, who created a stir Wednesday when he indicated House Republicans “must stand firm, hold their ground” if a Senate vote next week turns out as expected and restores funding for the health care law, predicted Thursday that every Republican senator would stand together to fight the law when it comes up for consideration in the upper chamber next week.

“I want to commend House conservatives for sticking their neck out,” Cruz, R-Texas, said Thursday during a news conference at the Capitol. “This is a moment for Republicans to unite, for every Senate Republican to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the gentlemen here and the Republicans in the House who have been courageous doing the right thing, and this is a moment ultimately for Harry Reid and the Democrats to decide for whom is it they work.”

House Speaker John Boehner said the House will pass its plan Friday to fund the government through Dec. 15 and simultaneously defund the health care law. While he wouldn’t predict what shape the legislation could take after the Senate amends it next week, he resisted the notion that Republicans would be to blame if the government ultimately shuts down.

“We'll deliver a big victory in the House tomorrow, then this fight will move over to the Senate where it belongs. I expect my Senate colleagues to be up for the battle,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “We're having the fight over here. We're going to win the fight over here. It's time for them to pick up the mantle and get the job done.”

As Republicans prepare for Friday’s vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid maintained Thursday that any bill that defunds the health care law would be dead on arrival in the Senate.

“Any bill that defunds Obamacare is dead, dead,” Reid, D-Nev., told reporters at the Capitol. “It’s a waste of time.”

Meanwhile, some of Cruz’s Republican colleagues in the Senate have been vocal in their opposition to the defund push, questioning whether the Republican rhetoric has left any room for a bipartisan compromise.

“You’ve seen them on the westerns...You ride into a box canyon and you’re kind of stuck…I mean how do you get out?” Corker, R-Tenn., said. “Unfortunately, Americans’ expectations about Republicans and what they can do have been raised to a level that’s beyond delivery.”

Still, Cruz said he would consider mounting a filibuster or “any procedural means necessary” to ensure that the health care law is stopped because it “is the most important fight in the country.”

“I will do everything necessary and anything possible to defund Obamacare,” Cruz pledged. “In all likelihood, it’s not going to be single-shot CR and everything’s resolved and done.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat, claimed that Democrats are united on fiscal issues and Republicans should not think they could tear them apart with a tough vote on Obamacare.

“We will not blink. Don't get it into your heads that we will. We won't,” Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “Don't make it part of your strategy that eventually we'll cave. We won't. We're unified. We're together. You're not.”

Wednesday evening, some House Republicans had begun to question the sincerity of their Senate counterparts to defund the controversial law.

Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., tweeted: "House agrees to send #CR to Senate that defunds Obamacare. @SenTedCruz & @SenMikeLee refuse to fight. Wave white flag and surrender.”

"So far Sen Rs are good at getting Facebook likes, and townhalls, not much else. Do something...,"  Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., tweeted.

So what happened since then to bring Republicans back to the same page?

“You know what happened. There wasn’t 218 votes for the other proposals brought forward,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said. “This is where the votes are.”

“Republicans, by their very nature, are a bit more independent than our colleagues across the aisle. I've seen that from the day I got here,” Boehner, who is serving in his 12th term, said. “We've got 233 members, all of whom have their own plan. It's tough to get them on the same track. We got there.”

With 11 days left for the divided Congress to strike an agreement, a senior Republican leadership aide said that rather than move directly to a clean continuing resolution that relies on Democratic votes, there could be one more volley left to send the bill back to the Senate before the battle is settled.

At the end of his news conference, Boehner hinted that Republicans intend to fight Obamacare until all time is off the clock on September 30.

“I'm not going to speculate on what the Senate's going to do, not do and where the votes are. It's way too early for that,” Boehner said. “We'll have plenty of time next weekend to discuss that.”

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