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Government spending, Obamacare become game of political ‘chicken’ (+video)

Republicans and Democrats are maneuvering for advantage on government spending, Obamacare, and a threatened government shutdown. Within the GOP, there's intramural squabbling.

By Staff writer / September 21, 2013

Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas (l.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R) of Utah during a news conference Thursday. Senator Cruz and Senator Lee are crusading against President Obama’s health-care law while infuriating many congressional Republicans with a tactic they consider futile, self-serving, and detrimental to the party’s political hopes in 2014.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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The game of political chicken continued into the weekend as Republicans and Democrats maneuvered for advantage on government spending, "Obamacare," and a possible government shutdown.

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Not long after House Republicans on Friday passed a spending bill stripped of funding for the Affordable Care Act, President Obama called Speaker John Boehner.

It was a short conversation.

Mr. Obama told Mr. Boehner he would not negotiate over the debt limit. The speaker told the president he was sorry to hear that. Have a nice weekend and goodbye.

Boehner and the GOP seem to be in more of a bind than Obama and congressional Democrats.

Conservatives in the GOP-controlled House (minus a few Republicans who voted against the bill Friday) were egged on by Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah – tea party favorites who vow to fight, Churchill-like, to kill Obamacare in the Senate.

With Democrats in control of the upper chamber and prominent Republicans there vocally opposed to what they see as a potentially suicidal effort to shut down the government over the new health-care law, there’s no way that could succeed.

“Americans hate government, but they don't want it to stop functioning," Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona said recently on CNN.

“I didn’t go to Harvard or Princeton, but I can count – the defunding box canyon is a tactic that will fail and weaken our position,” tweeted Sen. Bob Corker (R) of Tennessee. (The “Harvard or Princeton” gibe was aimed at double Ivy Leaguer Senator Cruz.)

A government shutdown, former Florida  Gov. Jeb Bush (R) says, could make things “quite dicey for the Republican Party."

The best thing to do, other well-known Republicans say, is to grudgingly accept Obamacare and move on. Holding that view are New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who says that shutting down the government would violate the public trust.

"The best way to fight it is in the 2014 elections," Governor Walker said Friday in an Associated Press interview.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, hosting a state Republican conference on Mackinac Island where Walker, Governor Jindal, and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky are set to appear, said a shutdown "reflects poorly on the national political culture."

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