The national debate over the defunding push has focused in Arkansas, where Republicans are trying to unseat the state's only Democratic senator. Advocates of the defunding approach launched a nine-state tour in Fayetteville last month to rally support for the idea, and former President Bill Clinton is slated to defend the law at his presidential library in Little Rock this week as key parts near implementation.
The federal 2013 fiscal year ends Sept. 30. The Heritage Foundation and some Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas have insisted that any measure to continue funding government strip away money from the healthcare law. That's a move that both Democrats and Republicans say would almost certainly trigger a government shutdown since the Democrat-led Senate and President Barack Obama would reject such a defunding measure.
Sen. John Boozman is one of the critics of the defunding push, warning that the shutdown that would result from such a standoff would harm an already fragile economy. Boozman unseated Democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln in 2010 after repeatedly criticizing her vote for the 2010 law.
"I don't think this is the battlefield where it needs to be fought," Boozman said.
Rep. Steve Womack, who represents Republican-heavy northwest Arkansas, has also warned colleagues of the political fallout they'd likely suffer over a standoff that he says would certainly trigger a government shutdown. Womack, who was elected in 2010, noted the backlash the GOP faced over partial shutdowns in 1995 and 1996.
"To me, the risks are not worth the gamble, the gamble being that we somehow cause the Senate to have this epiphany and the president to have this epiphany," Womack said.
The state's other three Republican congressmen have left open the possibility of tying the spending bills to defunding the health law, but insist they're not advocating a government shutdown. Reps. Tim Griffin and Rick Crawford were among 80 House Republicans who signed a letter last month urging Speaker John Boehner to resist any spending bills that would accommodate the new healthcare law.
The three have faced criticism from Democrats, who have said they'd face the blame for a shutdown. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has sent out near-daily releases targeting first-term Rep. Tom Cotton, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, over the defunding push. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has also been targeting Griffin over his stance.
Cotton didn't sign the letter but said he thinks defunding should be a part of the budget negotiations. Cotton, however, has said it's possible he'd vote for spending bills that included money for the healthcare law.
"I think what we have to do is maintain Obamacare as an issue for negotiations in the fiscal debates that are coming this fall," Cotton said. "Whether that means trying to defund it, whether that means trying to delay the mandate on individuals and employers and the exchanges before they go into effect ... that's a matter that's open for legislative debate and negotiation."
The letter signed by Crawford and Griffin doesn't expressly advocate a government shutdown, but urges House leaders to defund the health law "in any relevant appropriations bill brought to the House floor in the 113th Congress, including any continuing appropriations bill."
Griffin said that he'll push for the law's defunding, but said that tying that to any continuing resolution to temporarily fund the government would only affect the discretionary spending attached to the law. That wouldn't completely defund the overhaul since most of it is so-called "mandatory" spending, he said.
"I signed on to the letter because what the letter advocates is being vigilant and looking for opportunities to defund the parts of Obamacare that are in the (continuing resolution,)" Griffin said.
Crawford, meanwhile, said he's trying to build support for a compromise that would require the House and Senate to cast a symbolic vote on the healthcare law's spending before considering any continuing resolution or increase in the federal government's borrowing limit.
Under Crawford's proposal, any vote to continue government spending or raise the debt ceiling must be accompanied with a non-binding resolution on the wisdom of continuing funding for the health overhaul. A spokesman for Crawford compared it to tying the debt ceiling increase in 2011 to votes on a balanced budget amendment.
Crawford stopped short of saying he'd vote against any spending bill with funding for the healthcare law, but said he believed the compromise approach would be the best way to avoid a standoff and build support for defunding.
"This is sort of an affirmation forcing lawmakers to be on record that they are OK with spending $1.3 trillion in additional dollars," Crawford said.