For the third time in two days, the House on Monday passed a stop-gap budget bill to keep the government open, this time attaching a year-long delay in the new health care law requirement that nearly every American purchase health insurance.
With just a few hours left before the fiscal year ends at midnight and the federal government runs out of money, the resolution passed 228-201.
But like the previous two proposals the House has passed since early Sunday morning, the latest measure has virtually no chance of passing the Democratic Senate, where leaders announced that they will immediately table the bill just as they had the two others that tampered with Obamacare.
A likely Senate rejection would put the issue back into the hands of the House. If the two chambers can't reach agreement, the government will partially shut down.
"We will be right back at square one yet again," a Senate Democratic leadership aide said Monday as the House approved the latest measure.
The Senate previously rejected two House-passed budget bills, one that would have defunded Obamacare and another that would delay it by one year.
President Obama on Monday called House and Senate leaders to talk about a potential deal, but it clearly hadn't materialized before the latest House vote.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said on the House floor that Obama was unwilling to negotiate during the call on any provisions that would change the health care law the GOP wants desperately to block. Republicans on the call were just as unwilling to compromise.
"The speaker told the president that Obamacare is costing jobs and that American families are being denied basic fairness when big businesses are getting exemptions that they are not," a GOP leadership aide reported. "The call lasted nearly 10 minutes.”
Some Republicans have told the Washington Examiner that the House GOP leadership could offer a last-ditch measure to avert a government shutdown, which, according to polls and experience, could be politically disastrous for Republicans who are likely to be blamed for the stalemate.
But other lawmakers said they are not certain what will happen next and that the government may close for at least a few days, giving GOP leaders time to convince conservatives that the government funding bill simply can not be used to defund Obamacare.
For now, at least, GOP leaders stood in unison with those seeking to defund the health care law. The leaders argued on the House floor Monday night that the latest measure eliminates the special exemptions President Obama has provided under the new health care law to congressional staffers and gives individuals the same yearlong exemption from the insurance mandate that Obama granted to corporations.
"The bill before us is very simple," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said before the vote. "It funds the government and it says, 'Let's treat our constituents fairly.'"
The funding fight has become a high-stakes game of political poker.
Democrats, aware of recent polls showing Republicans would be blamed for a shutdown, are holding their ground and refusing to accept any legislation that touches the health care law.
"We are not going to negotiate on this," Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said. "We are not going to be bullied."
Democrats are seizing on apparent strife within the GOP over how far to push the showdown.
A faction of House conservatives with Tea Party backing intends to reject any budget proposal that does not stop all or part of Obamacare, which they say is hurting constituents. Senate Democrats insist they won't accept any budget bill that tampers with Obamacare. Moderate Republicans want to drop the Obamacare fight for now to avoid a shutdown.
The conflict in the House has made it impossible for GOP leaders to find the 218 votes needed to pass a bill without having to rely mostly on Democrats.
"You've got a far-right extremist Tea Party element in the Republican Party that is dictating what is happening on the floor of this House," Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said.
Some in the GOP have started to push back at the defund faction with a small handful of Republicans voting against a procedural resolution Monday night. But the effort did not draw much GOP support and the latest resolution still passed with ease.
"Revolt averted," a GOP leadership aide outside the chamber joked when the bill passed.