WASHINGTON - Locked in a deepening struggle with President Barack Obama, House Republicans on Saturday demanded a one-year delay in major parts of the nation's new health care law and permanent repeal of a tax on medical devices as the price for preventing a partial government shutdown threatened for early Tuesday.
The White House quickly issued a veto threat and Senate Democrats vowed to reject the measure even before the House began debating it. "Any member of the Republican Party who votes for this bill is voting for a shutdown," presidential press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
Undeterred, House Republicans pressed ahead with their latest attempt to squeeze a concession from the White House in exchange for letting the government open for business normally on Tuesday. They also vowed to pass legislation assuring U.S. troops are paid in the event of a shutdown.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Va., walks out of a Republican caucus at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Saturday. Lawmakers from both parties urged one another in a rare weekend session to give ground in their fight over preventing a federal shutdown, with the midnight Monday deadline fast approaching.
"I think we have a winning program here," said Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, after days of discord that pitted Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and his leadership against tea party-backed conservatives.
Another Republican, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, reacted angrily when asked whether he would eventually support a standalone spending bill if needed to prevent a shutdown. "How dare you presume a failure? How dare you? How dare you?" he said.
Apart from its impact on the health care law, the legislation that House Republicans decided to back would assure routine funding for government agencies through Dec. 15.
The measure marked something of a reduction in demands by House Republicans, who passed legislation several days ago that would permanently strip the health care law of money while providing funding for the government.
It also contained significant concessions from a party that long has criticized the health care law for imposing numerous government mandates on industry, in some cases far exceeding what Republicans have been willing to support in the past.
GOP aides said that under the legislation headed toward a vote, portions of the health law that already have gone into effect would remain unchanged. That includes requirements for insurance companies to guarantee coverage for pre-existing conditions and to require children to be covered on their parents' plans until age 26. It would not change a part of the law that reduces costs for seniors with high prescription drug expenses.
Instead, the measure would delay implementation of a requirement for all individuals to purchase coverage or face a penalty, and of a separate feature of the law that will create marketplaces where individuals can shop for coverage from private insurers.
By repealing the medical device tax, the GOP measure also would raise deficits - an irony for a party that won the House majority in 2010 by pledging to get the nation's finances under control.
The Senate rejected the most recent House-passed anti-shutdown bill on a party-line vote of 54-44 Friday, insisting on a straightforward continuation in government funding without health care-related add-ons.
That left the next step up to the House - with time to avert a partial shutdown growing ever shorter.
For a moment at least, the revised House proposal papered over a simmering dispute between the leadership and tea party conservatives who have been more militant about abolishing the health law that all Republicans oppose.
It was unclear whether members of the rank and file had consulted with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has become the face of the "Defund Obamacare" campaign that tea party organizations are promoting and using as a fundraising tool.