If the proposal passes the House, the Senate will be instructed to vote on the defunding measure; if it defeats it, then the "clean" resolution to keep the government funded at agreed-to levels goes straight to the President's desk. No shutdown.
Conservative groups like FreedomWorks, Club For Growth and Heritage Action vehemently oppose the plan and have vowed to punish lawmakers who vote to bring it up. They want Republicans to force a confrontation over defunding Obamacare at risk of a government shutdown. These well-financed groups wield tremendous influence over the GOP and have repeatedly bested -- and embarrassed -- the party leadership.
"This is a legislative gimmick designed to provide political cover to those who are unwilling to fight to defund Obamacare," said Michael Needham, the leader of Heritage Action. "Any constituent who looks at this vote will know it is intended to look like a vote to defund Obamacare while failing to do so. The American people are tired of gimmicks, and it is our expectation that no conservative in Congress will try to deceive their constituents by going along with this cynical ploy."
While pitching the Obamacare strategy Tuesday during a private meeting, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) dismissed the right's Obamacare-or-shutdown strategy as an unrealistic ploy to raise money, according to the conservative Washington Examiner. "I reject the false choice that if you are against shutting down the government you are for Obamacare," he told his members. "We need to give the Senate the opportunity to join us in the fight against Obamacare. This strategy forces the Senate to take a vote and give our Republican colleagues there the chance to fight."
It's not clear yet if House Republicans have the necessary votes. Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) quickly came out against the plan, dismissing it as "hocus pocus." But most House Republicans whom TPM spoke to Tuesday late afternoon were undecided. Republicans have 233 votes in the House, which means they cannot afford to lose more than 16 members, unless they make up the balance with Democrats. It's an uphill battle.
"It's too early to tell," Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a deputy majority whip, told The Hill. "My guess is you start off strong, but we're probably not there today."
Unsurprisingly, the White House formally threatened to veto the proposal to defund Obamacare on Tuesday evening, in the event that it somehow passes Congress.
The House vote also carries implications for the overall spending level to be established. Republicans want to enshrine post-sequestration spending levels into law, while Democrats want to replace the indiscriminate cuts enacted in 2011. If Obamacare disputes scuttle the House GOP's ability to pass a continuing resolution, that will empower Democrats.
A House Democratic leadership aide described the Republican plan as a vote to continue the sequester, defund Obamacare and hold government funding hostage to Obamacare.
"Democrats will be very unified against this," the aide said.