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Republicans dig in on Day One of shutdown with plan to pass mini government spending bills

From left, Republican Reps. Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Dave Camp and Tom Graves. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

On Day One of the government shutdown, some were expecting House Speaker John Boehner to begin reducing Republican demands to defund or delay Obamacare. But he is instead digging in.

The House plans a Tuesday evening vote on three smaller spending bills that would re-open some parts of the government, including national parks. It's a move intended to increase pressure on Senate Democrats, who have so far rejected nearly every spending measure the House has proposed because each one attacked the new health care law.

House leadership aides tell the Washington Examiner that they now plan to send the Senate piecemeal spending bills that together achieve the Republican goal of funding parts of the government, but not those crucial to the implementation of Obamacare.

Republican leadership has been emboldened by the backing of the majority in their conference as well as indications that the economy has so far weathered the shutdown.

While Boehner, R-Ohio, fought early on to avoid government closures by promoting a no-strings spending bill, he has since changed his mind and is embracing the efforts of his most conservative members to block Obamacare.

"There is a commitment to this now," an aide told the Examiner.

Democrats on Capitol Hill and at the White House have been hammering Republicans, blaming them for the shutdown. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., took to the floor Tuesday to liken conservative Republicans to anarchists.

Boehner and Republicans counter with their own accusations of blame. Boehner penned an op-ed piece in USA Today accusing the Democrats of "refusing to engage in bipartisan talks." Republicans also staged a conference committee meeting on the spending bill even though it was clear that Democrats would not be there.

Republicans now hope that a series of targeted spending bills that make no mention of Obamacare will pressure Democrats to approve them so some government functions like national parks can continue. Democrats who oppose the measures would risk being seen as extending the government shutdown.

The plan has the support of most of the GOP rank and file, aides said.

Critics thought the GOP would give up its fight against the health care law after the government closed, especially since polls indicate Republicans will be blamed for a shutdown. But Republicans have no plans to back down, at least for now.

GOP leaders on Tuesday stood behind their latest proposal to pass a short-term spending bill that would delay the individual mandate in the health care law and eliminate special health insurance subsidies for Congress and their staffers.

The Senate early Tuesday rejected a House proposal to start formal House-Senate conference talks on the spending bill.

The government cannot fully re-open until Congress passes legislation to fund the 2014 fiscal year.

Senate Democrats reacted negatively to the House plan to pass piecemeal spending measures, noting that the idea was first proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who led the fight against the health care reform law with a nearly 22-hour filibuster speech and who Democrats have portrayed as a right-wing extremist from the GOP's Tea Party wing.

"Sen. Ted Cruz is now going to pick his favorite federal agencies to reopen?" Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., responded when asked about the House plan. "There are a lot of federal agencies that need to be reopened. I suggest we open all of them."

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., called the proposal "a faux way of doing things," while Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said the three smaller funding bills would leave essential parts of the government shuttered.

Senate Democrats want the House to pass a bill to fund the entire federal government until Nov. 15 with "no political strings attached."

Durbin said he expects the GOP will feel pressured to pass such a measure in the coming days.

"Wait until people start looking at the retirement accounts and savings after a couple of days when the stock market declines," Durbin said. "They are going to have second thoughts about this wonderful Tea Party incident."