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Obamacare or Government Shutdown? That’s the GOP Question

With the new fiscal year starting 10 weeks from today, and the budget process on a collision course with total impasse, it was only a matter of time before talks of a government shutdown would bubble to the Capitol surface.

But the latest obstructionist threat from Sen. Mike Lee is creating a new avenue for melodrama in the process. The Utah Republican says he has already signed up 13 fellow fiscal conservatives for his campaign to prevent enactment of any spending measures that permit the government to spend money implementing Obamacare. And he’s promising he’ll searching for more budget hawks, on both sides of the Capitol, to join his cause.

“If Republicans in both houses simply refuse to vote for any continuing resolution that contains further funding for further enforcement of Obamacare, we can stop it,” Lee said Monday on Fox News. “We can stop the individual mandate from going into effect.”

Lee described the coming continuing resolution as the last available legislative vehicle for thwarting the health care law, because the requirement that most people carry insurance or pay a fine will go into effect soon thereafter

Ultimately, he could pull off his hostage-taking with the support of only 26 more senators beyond the group he says he’s already lined up. Whether that’s a tall order or not will depend on what percentage of the chamber’s 46 Republicans, virtually all of whom have gone on record in favor of repealing the 2010 health care overhaul, are prepared to declare that effort so important that it’s worth preventing continued routine government operations after Oct. 1.

Lee was not the only Republican to talk of a government shutdown Monday. But the other prominent warning, from the office Speaker John A. Boehner, took a very different tack from Lee’s offensive move. Instead, Boehner’s spokesman Brendan Buck sought to shift the potential blame well ahead of time to President Barack Obama.

The White House, Buck said, has issued a series of statements declaring the president “would not sign any spending bills this year unless sequestration spending cuts are eliminated — and replaced with his plan for higher, job-destroying taxes.” Such a refusal to turn those bills into law, Buck added, “of course, would mean an unavoidable government shutdown.”

The intensifying rhetoric comes as Obama prepares to give a highly touted speech Wednesday laying out his vision for the economy and how the coming budget deliberations might make it stronger.