Americans are split over tying 'Obamacare' to funding plan

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Americans are split over whether funding for President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law should be linked to measures that pay for U.S. government operations, but more will blame Republicans if the government has to shut down on Tuesday, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll.

The poll, conducted during the past four days, also found that 65 per cent of Americans are concerned about the looming shutdown of many government offices that will occur at midnight unless Congress and the White House can resolve deep differences on budget and spending priorities.

Conservative Republicans in Congress have tried to hold up extending the government's spending authority beyond the end of the budget year late Monday to try to get Democrats to agree to weaken or cut funding for "Obamacare," the healthcare overhaul that begins taking effect on Tuesday.

It is a move that has divided the Republican Party - and many Americans, according to the Reuters/Ipsos poll.

One-third of the poll's respondents agreed with tying "Obamacare" to a plan that would continue funding the government, but one-third disagreed, and another one-third said they did not agree or disagree.

Democrats, including Obama, have refused to negotiate on any changes to the healthcare law.

If lawmakers do not come to an agreement by the end of Monday, much of the government will shut down for the first time since the 1990s, a move that likely would close many federal regulatory agencies, federal museums and parks, among other things.

Republicans would get a bit more of the blame for a government shutdown, the poll found.

One-quarter of Americans said Republicans in Congress would deserve the blame, while 14 per cent said Obama would be at fault. Just 5 per cent pointed to Democrats in Congress, while 44 per cent said everyone involved would be to blame.

"It's a 'pox on all your houses' (result), while they do tend to blame the House Republicans more than Obama," said Cliff Young, managing director of Ipsos' U.S. Polling and Public Sector practice.

The U.S. government has shut down 17 times in its history, most recently in 1996, during a budget dispute between Democratic President Bill Clinton and Republican leaders in Congress.

While 65 per cent of the poll's respondents said they were concerned about a shutdown, 25 per cent said they were not.

"While people are paying attention, it's sort of a lukewarm concern because it's very distant for people," Young said.

"Unless the shutdown has a direct impact on people's lives, it will always be more noise than substance."

The online poll questioned 1,269 Americans from Friday to Monday, and has a credibility interval, which is similar to a margin of error, of 3.1 percentage points for each result.

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