One of the most prominent developers of the plan that could shut the government down is a little-known congressman who has been in office only eight months.
This newly elected tea party aligned lawmaker downplays his position, saying he has relatively little influence. But in reality, his efforts have pushed Washington to the brink.
At issue is the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Some Republicans are demanding that it be dismantled -- or at the very least delayed - and they think the best way to do that is attach it to a must-pass bill to fund the government.
The idea has rankled Washington for more than a week and exposed fissures in the Republican Party.
So who is the lawmaker quietly influencing the debate?
Sen. Ted Cruz, who staged a 21-hour talk-a-thon on the Senate floor disparaging the Affordable Care Act, would be a good guess. But it would be wrong.
The answer? Mark Meadows, who represents the western part of North Carolina and has wielded his influence behind the bright lights of the television cameras and the hot microphones.
In August, while lawmakers spent time in their districts, Meadows wrote a letter to his Republican leaders suggesting they tie the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act to the bill that funds the government for the next year.
The letter read: "James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 58 that 'the power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon... for obtaining a redress of every grievance...'"
Meadows successfully convinced 79 of his colleagues to sign on to his letter. And he went further, leading a group of 40 lawmakers to demand that the continuing resolution, or the short-term government funding bill at issue, zeroes out funding for President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy achievement so far.
In a lengthy interview with CNN, Meadows explained his case.
"Our intent has never been to shut down the government," Meadows said. "It's to stop the [health care] law."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called those advocating for such a plan "anarchists."
A "bad day for government is a good day for the tea party," Reid said on the Senate floor last week.
Meadows vs. the GOP
Republican leaders in the House were reluctant and dismissed the plan -- at first. Speaker John Boehner and many Republicans believed the strategy could lead to shutdown as the Democratic-led Senate would never agree to such a plan.
Additionally, leaders believed that Republicans would be blamed for a shut down. Polling backs up their concern. A recent CNN/ORC International Poll indicated that 51 percent of respondents would blame Republicans. That's a political risk that leadership didn't want to risk.
Even though Meadows' letter doesn't represent a majority of the caucus, it was a factor in persuading Boehner to reverse course and put forward a plan that funds the government but defunds the Affordable Care Act.
Running against politics
Meadows said he understands that "leadership has a different responsibility." And that leadership is responsible for thinking about the party. "This type of vote could potentially hurt our long term goals. I understand that," he said.
But he said that's not his concern.
"My job first is to make sure I represent the people back home," Meadows said. "I don't believe that when I get here that people expect me to look at the political implications. That's for somebody else to focus on."
For him, getting rid of the Affordable Care Act is priority No. 1. "[T]o ignore that would be to ignore our duty to represent the people back home," he said.
'Persona non grata'