Boehner Cantor Nov 2012
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, speaks next to Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Vir., during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Reuters

The likelihood of a federal government shutdown in 18 days increased Thursday, when the House Republican leadership delayed a vote on a continuing resolution that had been scheduled for that day. The reason is simple: They just don’t have the votes.

Republicans remain divided on funding for the Affordable Care Act, the new health care law commonly referred to as Obamacare, according to Reuters and other news sources.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., introduced the stopgap measure on Tuesday to keep the government running past the end of September and to give lawmakers some breathing room to find a permanent solution to the budget issues. It appropriated $986.3 billion to keep the government running until Dec. 15.

But in a deal-breaker for many Republicans, the Rogers bill doesn’t include language to defund Obamacare. The House leadership instead chose to include a separate concurrent resolution with specific language that no funding should go toward implementing Obamacare. The leaders were hoping this would force the Senate to vote on the defunding legislation. Conservatives among the rank and file want the "defund Obamacare" language included in the main bill.

Now, without their own caucus's Republican support, the leadership is left in search of a new strategy, particularly one that would get the votes.

Some Senate Republicans have also balked at the House leadership’s plan, calling it a procedural trick that would allow the Democrats to vote down the defunding bill and pump money into the health care law.

The government will need new funding on Oct. 1, as the current resolution ends on Sept. 30. The Treasury also faces a potential default in mid-October, meaning the budget battles will drag on.

The Los Angeles Times reported that a vote will be rescheduled next week after the strategy has been fully explained to the concerned group of lawmakers. “I don’t think more time is going to fix this bill,” Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., told the Times.

Others like Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, have said the plan is “hocus-pocus.”