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US Congress Braces for High Stakes Budget Battle

  • Cindy Saine

As accusations fly between the two major political parties, Congress and the White House are headed to the latest in a series of showdowns that have nearly resulted in the partial shut down of the government. This time it might happen, as two ideologies collide just as spending authorization runs out.

Analysts say such repetitive brinkmanship would be unlikely in other democracies around the world.

House Republicans celebrated, on Friday, their government spending measure crippling the president's health care law.

Furious House Democrats are now accusing Republicans of threatening to close down the government rather than give in.

"This place is a mess. Let's get our house in order," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives.

At the heart of the battle is a clash over the role of government. The Tea Party, an anti-big government faction of the Republican Party, emerged four years ago to oppose the president's signature reform of the health care system.

After Obama pushed through health insurance reform to provide health coverage to millions,

Republicans took back the U.S. House with a core of about 30 Tea Party-oriented members who say they are willing to take risks for their convictions.

"This is in many ways a takeover of the Republican Party by an extreme faction that did not really exist 10 years ago," said budget expert Stan Collender.

Tea Party members are carrying out the wishes of voters in their districts by taking Congress to the brink, says Steve Bittle of George Washington University.

"Many of the more rebellious members, these Tea Party members, come from districts that have very solid Republican majorities," he said. "They are really not worried about a challenge from the Democrats. They are worried about a challenge from the right-wing of their party."

At a luncheon for conservatives, Republican Raul Labrador blamed the threat of a shutdown on Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama.

"And if Harry Reid and the President want to shut down the government because all we are asking for is a simple delay of Obamacare, then I hope you write the story that way, and not in the way that we are the ones who are at fault," he said.

Republican Representative Mark Meadows says Americans shouldn't worry.

"We have had 17, 17 government shutdowns, in our history. And all of those were partial shutdowns," he said. "The longest one was 21 days. No one ever didn't get paid ..."

Asked if other democracies could have showdowns on routine funding bills, analysts say it's hard to imagine.

"In parliamentary systems, a situation like this probably would have ended up in a call for new elections, maybe a vote of no confidence in the prime minister," Stan Collender said.

"The next act in the drama will be in the Senate, where all eyes are focused on Majority Leader Harry Reid to see what he does with the House bill. He has already said the Senate will not pass a bill that defunds the health care law.