House Republicans are headed for a Friday vote on a short-term spending bill that would keep the government running until Dec. 15 while at the same time defunding the new health care law that many Republicans are eager to block.
Republican leaders also announced that they would this week unveil a proposal to extend the nation's $16.7 trillion borrowing limit, which Treasury officials said must be raised by mid-October to prevent the government from defaulting on its financial obligations.
Republican leaders plan to first tackle a short-term government spending proposal, which they unveiled Wednesday morning. The plan was devised a week after their conservative wing derailed spending legislation that did not directly defund the health care law.
The new proposal appears to have won over the GOP's right flank.
Members left the Wednesday meeting saying they are ready to vote for the legislation because it specifically strips money from the health insurance reform law known as Obamacare.
"It's a step in the right direction," Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., who authored his own government spending proposal that would have defunded the health care law. "We are moving where I think our objective was, and that was to keep the government open and protect our constituents from Obamacare."
The Friday vote would come 10 days before the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year, when government funding officially runs out.
"We've got a lot of divergent opinions in the caucus and the key to any leadership job is to listen," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said after the meeting. "We listened to our colleagues over the course of the last week. We have a plan that they are happy with; we're going to move forward."
The bill would fund the government at an annual rate of $986.3 billion, a number far too low to win over House Democrats so passage will depend entirely on Republican support to pass.
The bill would then head to the Democratically led Senate, where a faction of conservative Republicans have been clamoring for a funding bill that strips funding for Obamacare. More than a dozen lawmakers signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., calling for a bill that defunds the law. Some of those senators worked last week to derail the House spending bill that failed to directly defund Obamacare by pressuring GOP lawmakers.
After weeks of in-fighting over how to proceed with a spending bill, House Republicans were eager to hand over to the Senate what has become a legislative hot potato.
"It's their opportunity to lead and fight it out," Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., said of the Senate Republicans. "At least we have an actual plan that unites Republicans in the House and shows real leadership."
House leadership aides said Boehner and other top Republicans came up with the plan after listening to rank-and-file members who returned from the August recess after hearing constituents demand that unpopular health care law be blocked.
"The question was what tactic to use," an aide said.
When the first plan didn't garner the 217 votes needed to pass, the GOP leaders devised a "Plan B."
"This puts the House on record to defund Obamacare and it sends the debate over to the Senate, where the fight really is," an aide explained.
House Republican leaders hope that by passing a short-term budget bill, they will be able to use the additional time to negotiate a broader deal as part of the debate to raise the debt ceiling.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said Wednesday that the GOP's debt ceiling plan will include "a path forward" on tax reform as well as the XL Keystone Pipeline that President Obama has yet to approve.
Cantor said the debt ceiling deal would also include a provision to delay the health care law, an acknowledgment that the Senate is unlikely to pass the House budget bill that strips funding for Obamacare.
Veteran Republicans, who have experienced several government spending showdowns, acknowledged that if the Senate sends a bill back to the House that does not defund the law, passage may be impossible.
"I don't know what's going to happen," Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., who has served in the House since 1997, told the Washington Examiner. "I really don't."