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Congress Searches For A Shutdown-Free Future

There's a lot of searching on Capitol Hill but no discovery yet of a way to avoid a federal government shutdown at the start of next month.

Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor are searching for enough House GOP votes for a spending bill that could pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate and keep the government open past Sept. 30.

Tea Party-affiliated lawmakers are searching for a way to repeal the Affordable Care Act with the help of the Democratic-controlled Senate and President Obama.

Democrats are searching for a way to end the sequester budget cuts, or failing that, to pass a spending bill for the new fiscal year starting Oct. 1 that funds the government at a higher level than Republicans want.

The only thing found Thursday seemed to be more time for negotiations and vote-wrangling. Republican leaders recall how their party was blamed for the shutdowns of the mid-1990s and earnestly want to avoid a repeat, especially heading into a midterm election year.

Cantor alerted members Thursday that during the last week of September, when they are supposed to be on recess, they will now most likely find themselves in Washington voting on a continuing resolution to fund the government into October.

It looks like lawmakers will need every hour of that additional time. While talking to reporters Thursday, Boehner strongly suggested that House Republicans weren't exactly coalescing around any one legislative strategy.

"There are a lot of discussions going on about how — about how to deal with the [continuing resolution] and the issue of 'Obamacare,' and so we're continuing to work with our members," Boehner said. "There are a million options that are being discussed by a lot of people. When we have something to report, we'll let you know."

The options would be alternatives to legislation House leaders pulled from a planned vote Wednesday. The problem with the measure? It wouldn't have forced the Senate to vote on a bill that inextricably bound funding the government beyond September to defunding Obamacare.

House GOP leaders had hoped another symbolic anti-Obamacare vote — like the 41 others the House has already taken — would be acceptable with enough House Republicans. But it wasn't.

One alternative under discussion in the Republican conference would delay by a year the Oct. 1 date when individuals and families can start enrolling for health insurance.

While Republicans are divided on the way forward, Democrats are united on a number of key points, one of them being their wish that the opposition give up on trying to kill the health law.

"What's interesting to note is the proposals the Republicans are putting forward are not proposals — continuing resolutions to keep government open," California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, told reporters. "They are proposals to shut down government. They know that. They know that what they're proposing is not going to pass the Senate or be signed by the president. So why don't we just save time, be constructive?"

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