As the federal government enters its first shutdown since 1995, meet the key players who decided how this latest fight ended, according to CNN:
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina--During Congress' August recess, the tea party-backed freshman wrote to Republican leaders suggesting that they tie dismantling the health care reform law to the funding bill. Though initially rejected by GOP leadership, 79 of Meadows' House colleagues signed on to the letter, which quoted James Madison writing in the Federalist Papers, "the power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon ... for obtaining a redress of every grievance."
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio-- The top Republican leader in the land may be the most important player in the days immediately before a possible shutdown. Boehner could decide whether to push through the Senate's version of a spending bill and keep government running, or he could float a third version with some other Republican wish list items in it. If he takes the second option, Boehner could risk a shutdown but could also force the Senate into a tough position: give House Republicans something or send federal workers home. Timing on all this will be critical.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas-- The tea party firebrand lead a 21-hour talk-a-thon on the Senate floor, delaying passage of a spending bill. Cruz has stoked the anti-Obamacare flames all summer, but recently angered fellow Republicans by openly saying that the Senate does not have the votes to repeal the health care law.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida-- The potential presidential candidate has been one of three senators (Cruz and Mike Lee, R-Utah, being the others) pushing to use the government shutdown debate as a way to repeal or defund the Affordable Care Act. But watch his actions and language as a shutdown nears to see if he digs in or downshifts at all.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada-- A master at using Senate procedure to his advantage, Reid is the main force in controlling the voting process in the chamber and ensuring that an attempted filibuster by tea party-types fails. The majority leader is a primary negotiator now that the House has rejected the Senate spending bill.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky-- If Reid steers the ship, McConnell controls the headwinds. Which is good news for Reid, at least initially. The Republican leader and several of his members say they will vote against Cruz's filibuster and in favor of a spending bill with no limits on the Affordable Care Act. Meaning, in favor of a bill that just funds government. McConnell generally has been leery of running into a shutdown or default. In fact, one legislative method for avoiding default is named after him.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington-- Murray, right, does not seek the outside limelight, but the Senate Budget Committee chairwoman is a major fiscal force behind the scenes on Capitol Hill. Known by fellow Democrats as a straight shooter, she is also an experienced negotiator, having co-chaired the laborious, somewhat torturous and unsuccessful Super Committee.
Rep. Tom Graves, R-Georgia-- A freshman congressman, Graves is one reason the debate has reached this point. He led the charge that blocked the original proposal by House Republican leaders.
Rep. Peter King, R-New York-- King is outspoken against many tea party tactics, calling the move to tie the Affordable Care Act to the spending bill essentially a suicide mission and Cruz "a fraud." He is pushing for Republicans to accept a more "clean" spending bill that can pass the Senate and avoid a shutdown.
Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- Known for his deep connections and his aggressive lobbying on behalf of business, he and the Chamber are urging Republican lawmakers to avoid a shutdown.
Michael Needham, president of Heritage Action -- Needham runs the political offshoot of the conservative Heritage Foundation and has been unrelenting in urging lawmakers to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He has told Republicans not to fear a potential shutdown, saying they would suffer more politically from allowing health care reform to continue.
President Barack Obama-- Expect the president to use his podium more as a shutdown nears, aiming at public opinion as Democrats in Congress position themselves. If House Republicans send back a new proposal close to the Sept. 30 deadline, the president and Democrats will have to decide what move to make next.
Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Virginia-- As the House Republican No. 2, Cantor is much more closely allied with conservatives and tea party members in the House than Boehner. The two have not always agreed on every strategy during potential shutdown debates, but have been in public lockstep during the current go-around.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland-- The top two House Democrats are mostly watching and waiting. But they will play a critical role once Boehner decides his next move. They could either bring Democratic votes on board a deal or be the loudest voices against a new Republican alternative. Hoyer will be interesting to watch; he has strongly opposed both the House and Senate plans as cutting too much in spending.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-California-- The House whip, McCarthy has the tricky job of assessing exactly where Republican members stand and getting the 217 votes it takes to pass a bill in the chamber.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin-- The vote of the House budget chairman and former vice presidential nominee is an important signal both within Republican ranks and to the public at large. Ryan has voted against some funding measures in the past, including the emergency aid for Superstorm Sandy recovery. But he was a "yes" on the last extension of the debt ceiling.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida-- A former committee chairwoman, Ros-Lehtinen knows House politics and procedure inside out. Depending on the issue, she has been described as a conservative or moderate, and occasionally as a libertarian.
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