President Obama and his congressional allies are digging in ahead of a series of key votes on a contentious budget bill, refusing to consider a potential compromise that might satisfy GOP demands to chip away at the health law.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went so far as to call one counterproposal "stupid."
The Senate is set to take up the bill shortly after noon on Friday. The package as currently written would defund ObamaCare while also funding the government past Sept. 30, though Democrats are planning to promptly strip the ObamaCare measure. If it passes the Senate, House Republicans will then have to decide whether to insist on including anti-ObamaCare provisions.
Time is running short, with lawmakers facing a deadline of midnight on Monday to resolve their differences, or trigger a government shutdown.
The White House and Reid, though, have refused to contemplate a possible counterproposal. Some have discussed the possibility of including a repeal of a controversial tax on medical device companies. That effort has widespread bipartisan support; the Senate voted 79-20 in March in support of repealing the tax.
But Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson said the majority leader has ruled out the idea.
"Senator Reid thinks the idea of attaching the medical device tax repeal to the (budget bill) or the debt ceiling is 'stupid,'" he said in a statement. "Senator Reid supports the medical device tax ... His position has not changed, and the Senate will reject any (budget bill) that includes a repeal of the medical device tax. If the House wants to avoid a Republican government shutdown, they should pass a clean (budget bill). Period."
Jentleson was clarifying an earlier remark in which Reid appeared to call the tax itself "stupid."
Asked Thursday whether the White House could support the tax repeal, Press Secretary Jay Carney also said, "No. Absolutely not."
Businesses across the country have warned that the medical device tax is forcing them to cut back. The tax is projected to bring in $30 billion over the next decade -- the chief complaint concerns the way the 2.3 percent tax is designed. Though 2.3 percent sounds like a small amount, the tax is imposed on gross sales, meaning it has a far bigger impact on actual profits.
The office of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, among the lawmakers behind the efforts to repeal the tax, said in a statement Thursday that Hatch would continue to "examine and support every viable opportunity to put an end to the burdensome medical device tax."
The current debate may not be that opportunity. And it remains unclear how the two sides can reach agreement before Oct. 1.
House Speaker John Boehner indicated Thursday that he plans to keep fighting for anti-ObamaCare measures, if the Senate approves its bill on Friday. Asked if he'd accept the Senate bill as is, he said: "I do not see that happening."
Senators like Ted Cruz of Texas have insisted on language that defunds the law. Others have opened the door to language that delays the law or chips away at other provisions.
But Democrats fundamentally reject the tactic of using the budget bill as a vehicle to attack ObamaCare.
They also are warning Republicans against using a separate bill, which would allow an increase in the debt ceiling, to achieve similar goals.
"The fact of the matter is, the president has been willing in a demonstrated way to offer compromise solutions to our economic challenges and our budget challenges," Carney said. "What he will not do is engage in an attempt by Republicans to extort from him what they could not get through the legislative process, what they could not get at the ballot box, what they could not get at the Supreme Court of the United States."