WASHINGTON - The US government was on the edge of a major shutdown as Congress remained in partisan deadlock on Monday over Republican efforts to halt to President Barack Obama's healthcare reforms using a temporary spending bill.
With the law funding thousands of routine government activities set to expire at midnight, Republicans in the US House of Representatives insisted that the measure to fund the government include a delay of Obamacare, knowing it would be rejected by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
With just a few hours to go, the House once again attached an Obamacare delay to the spending bill, setting the stage for a third rejection by the Democratic-controlled Senate in a week.
A shutdown would leave some essential functions like national security intact but sharply cut many regulatory agencies, furloughing up to a million federal workers.
Neither body wanted to get stuck holding the funding measure at midnight, for fear of being identified as the one that ultimately didn't pass it, leading to the game of hot potato with rival funding bills that is in its second week.
An anticipated revolt by moderate House Republicans fizzled after House Speaker John Boehner made personal appeals to many of them to back him on a key procedural vote, said Republican Representative Peter King of New York.
"John said, 'This is going to work out. Trust me,'" said King, one of only a handful of at least two dozen House Republican moderates who rejected the appeal and voted "no."
Boehner prevailed on the procedural vote 225-204.
After Boehner made his personal appeal, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer called on him to permit a vote on a simple extension of federal funding of the government without any Obamacare add-ons.
"I dare you to do that," Hoyer roared, confident such a measure would win bipartisan approval. "Let democracy work."