The Republican-controlled House is set to vote Friday on a stopgap spending bill to keep the government open for business through the middle of December. And the White House has already said if it makes it to the president's desk, he'll veto it. That's because the bill also would defund the Affordable Care Act.
Congress has 10 days to get this worked out. If not, there will be a government shutdown. Passing what's known as a continuing resolution — a temporary bill to keep the lights on — should be routine. But this is turning into a huge fight that's likely to go right down to the wire.
And it's all because of Obamacare. Or more accurately, the determination of congressional Republicans to destroy President Obama's signature legislative achievement.
At the insistence of the most conservative wing of the House GOP conference, Speaker John Boehner is moving forward with a must-pass spending bill that includes the defunding.
Of course, the Senate is controlled by Democrats, and Majority Leader Harry Reid says any measure to defund Obamacare is "dead" and a "waste of time."
So the most likely scenario is that the Senate will take up the spending bill, restore the Obamacare funding and send it back to the House. Tag, you're it.
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz says he's willing to try and filibuster the Senate's action, but because of Senate procedure, he may not get the chance.
Cruz and Utah Sen. Mike Lee have been pushing all summer to defund the health care law, but Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain warns that a government shutdown over the issue could hurt the GOP.
"It is not going to succeed because the American people do not want government shut down," said McCain. "And they'll blame Congress. It's not as if we haven't seen this movie before."
Congress was blamed for the last government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996. It didn't turn out well for Republicans. So, the question is, will they blink? What happens when the Senate inevitably sends a stopgap spending bill back to the House that doesn't defund Obamacare?
If Boehner has a plan, he's not revealing it. "I'm not going to speculate on what the Senate's going to do or not do, and where the votes are," said the Ohio Republican. "We'll have plenty of time next weekend to discuss that."
Yes, he said next weekend. Boehner already is planning for this to go into the 11th hour.