Congress is facing two deadlines in the next three weeks -- one to fund the government -- the other to increase the amount the U.S. can legally borrow.
If Congress doesn't act, the government could shut down -- and could default on its debts.
But Republicans in the House said Wednesday they won't pass those bills unless they can get all the funding dropped for the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
The chances of a government shutdown grew significantly Wednesday when House Speaker John Boehner endorsed a measure that simultaneously funds the government and cuts off funds for the president's health care law.
That sets up a standoff with Democrats that must be resolved within twelve days, when the government will run out of money unless Congress acts.
Speaker Boehner was forced into the risky strategy by his right flank, and he made it clear Wednesday it wasn't his first choice.
"We listened to our colleagues over the course of the last week," he said, "and we have a plan that they are happy with we are going forward."
By colleagues, he means roughly 40 tea party Republicans who balked at funding the government past Sept. 30 unless the president's health care law was defunded or delayed.
Rep. Steve Scalise, of Louisiana, says he and other conservatives are tired of taking symbolic votes to repeal the law and want something with more teeth. "This is a devastating law that's having a devastating impact on all of our health care across the country," he asserted.
But isn't that just a recipe for a government shutdown, since the Democratically-controlled Senate is never going to vote for that?
"More and more senators are recognizing how devastating this law is!" Scalise replied.
Don't tell that to Sen. Charles Schumer (D, N.Y.). "They're on a different planet!" he exclaims.
Schumer says his party is united against defunding Mr, Obama's signature domestic achievement.
"This small group of people, who even Republicans know are off the deep end on this issue, have the Republican leadership in the House so shaken and scared that that leadership is going along with that insane plan," Schumer says.
Senate Republicans are almost unanimously opposed to the plan, as well.
They all oppose the president's health care law, but they don't think government funding or the economy should be put at risk because of it.
One of them described it as a "losing strategy" that could weaken the party's hand in the next fight over raising the debt ceiling.