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Congress Looks Beyond Syria To Its Next Fight

Now that Congress' extraordinary Syria debate is on hold, at least for now, the next upcoming drama is really a return to much more familiar territory: how will congressional leaders get enough votes to pass legislation to keep the government from going off yet another metaphorical cliff.

Until Wednesday, it looked like Congress was moving toward a vote this week to fund the government past September, when the fiscal year ends, and into December — thus avoiding a shutdown. But that vote was postponed until next week at the earliest.

The reason? Too many House conservatives who want to take more than a symbolic vote to defund the Affordable Care Act played hard to get, forcing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to pull the bill off the schedule.

The House has already voted 40 times to defund Obamacare. But all those past votes were symbolic since none had a prayer of getting past the Democratic-controlled Senate or President Obama.

That group of House conservatives insisted it wasn't going for its leadership's hocus-pocus anymore, however. It wants language to defund Obamacare included in the must-pass continuing resolution needed to keep the federal government from shutting down Oct. 1.

The representatives had the backing of conservative groups like Heritage Action and the Club for Growth, which added pressure on House Republicans by vowing to score how lawmakers voted on the legislative proposal as a "key vote."

Those House conservatives smelled victory Wednesday, a day after Tea Party members rallied in front of the U.S. Capitol on a horridly hot and humid day to insist on the defunding of Obamacare.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., a particularly outspoken member of the House Tea Party Caucus, tweeted: "Shout out to @TPPatriots for planning the Exempt America rally. It worked! House leadership is pulling the trick bill that funded #ObamaCare"

What comes next is uncertain. "Presumably, we will vote on something next week. In order for them to get more votes from their right wing, we presume the bill gets worse" said Drew Hammill, communications director for Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic minority leader.

Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner, Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are due to meet Thursday morning. In their first such get-together since the spring, they'll discuss the fiscal path forward, including the debt ceiling issue.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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