The U.S. government on Saturday moved toward its first shutdown in 17 years, after House Republicans demanded a one-year delay in President Barack Obama's health care program in exchange for funding government operations.
With a shutdown looming Monday at midnight, the White House and Senate Democrats slammed the latest Republican maneuver, which stands virtually no chance clearing the Senate or gaining presidential approval. A White House spokesman said any House Republican who votes later Saturday for the health care delay is voting for a shutdown.
The Republican-controlled House has already rejected a Senate bill keeping the government running through November 15, with many members refusing to accept any deal that ensures the launch of the health care law.
If the two houses of Congress cannot work out a budget agreement soon, hundreds of thousands of federal workers will be temporarily laid off and many government programs halted.
Lawmakers from both parties engaged in a spirited House debate Saturday, urging each other to make compromises.
President Obama told White House reporters Friday that House Republicans should stop what he called "political grandstanding'' and approve a temporary government funding measure without tying it to efforts to gut the new health care law, also known as the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare."
House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, accused the president of "grandstanding" himself, saying Mr. Obama has refused to even be part of the process.
Another deadline also looms -- October 17 -- when Congress must vote to increase the government's borrowing authority. If no agreement is reached by then, the United States could default on its debts for the first time ever.
Some Republican leaders fear a partial shutdown of the federal government would hurt the party's standing heading into next year's congressional elections. A government shutdown in the mid-1990s, when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, was followed by the re-election of then-president Bill Clinton, a Democrat, in 1996.