WASHINGTON — House Republicans rallied behind their right wing Friday to launch a full-scale assault on President Barack Obama’s health-care initiative, setting up a protracted confrontation with Democrats that risks shutting down the government in just 10 days.
On a vote of 230 to 189, the House approved and sent to the Senate a plan to fund federal agencies past Sept. 30, but also to strip funding from the Affordable Care Act, the president’s most significant legislative achievement.
“We had a victory today for the American people, and frankly, we also had a victory for common sense,” Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said, surrounded by more than 200 cheering lawmakers at a news conference at the Capitol.
“Our message to the United States Senate is real simple: The American people don’t want the government shut down and they don’t want Obamacare.”
Friday’s vote was Step One in the GOP crusade to undermine the health law. Step Two comes next week, when House leaders hope to advance a separate measure that will demand a one-year delay in the law’s implementation in exchange for an agreement to avoid a first-ever default on the nation’s debts sometime next month.
Obama responded with an uncharacteristically angry speech in which he accused Republicans of “trying to mess with me” and “holding the economy hostage.”
“They’re focused on politics. They’re focused on trying to mess with me. They’re not focused on you,” he told a friendly crowd of about 1,000 autoworkers and their families at a truck manufacturing plant on the outskirts of Kansas City, Mo.
Three times, Obama used the phrase “deadbeat nation” to condemn Republican brinkmanship on the debt limit. “We are not a deadbeat nation. We don’t run out on our tab,” Obama said. Sounding exasperated, he urged Congress: “Just do your job.”
Upon his arrival back in Washington, Obama called Boehner and reiterated his refusal to negotiate over the debt limit, a White House official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversation.
Obama added that “ the American people have worked too long and too hard to dig the nation out of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and the last thing that they and the nation’s economy needs is another politically motivated, self-inflicted wound,” the official said. Obama also called House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Boehner has repeatedly said he wants to avoid a default, as well as a government shutdown. But on Friday, instead of offering a simple bill to keep the government open through Dec. 15 and maintain the spending cuts known as the sequester, Boehner threw the full weight of House leadership behind the cause against the Affordable Care Act.
“This place is a mess,” Pelosi said before the vote. “If the idea is to limit government, let’s work together to do that. But what is brought to the floor is ... a measure designed to shut down government.”