Unable to get their bill to repeal last year's health reform law through the Senate, House Republicans are taking another tack and trying to use the power of the purse to stop it or at least slow it down.
Rep Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, the House majority leader, told reporters today he expects the House to vote next week to bar any government funds from being used to implement the law. This would likely come in the form of an amendment to a measure to fund the government after March 4th, when temporary funding passed during last December's lame duck Congress runs out.
Republicans have already promised that measure will make deep cuts to non-defense government programs for the rest of the fiscal year (which runs until the end of September), setting up a confrontation with the Democratically-controlled Senate and President Obama. By targeting spending in programs Mr. Obama has said represent his priorities (including education, infrastructure and clean energy), the House Republicans are throwing down the gauntlet.
And by adding a provision designed to shut down implementation of the health reform law, they are pretty much guaranteeing that the bill won't pass the Senate or be signed by the president.
The result will be a high-stakes game of political chicken during the first few days of March as negotiations between the House, Senate and White House over the spending bill run up against the deadline when funding runs out -- raising the prospect of a government shutdown if agreement isn't reached.