Utah Sen. Mike Lee is spearheading a new effort to block implementation of Obamacare, this time through the power of the purse.
The House of Representatives voted recently for full repeal of Obamacare. In the wake of the Obama administration delaying the onset of the employer mandate for one year, the House also voted to make that change to the law and delay the start of the individual mandate until 2015 as well. Neither bill is expected to see action on the Senate floor and President Obama would certainly veto them.
As a result, Lee believes that starving Obamacare of money is the best way to protect the American people from the effects of the laws.
“What I think anyone who opposes Obamacare should do is fund the government but refuse to fund Obamacare. The American people are overwhelmingly against this bill,” said Lee, who says the reality of rising premiums and Obama’s efforts to selectively implement the law mean the American people should not be forced to fund it.
The political reality, of course, is that Democrats still control the Senate and Obama is still in the White House. So how would Lee’s plan be any different than other attempts to scrap Obamacare?
“The best way to do it is to start with a funding mechanism, a continuing resolution, passing in the House of Representatives that funds every other function of government at current levels but just excludes Obamacare funding,” said Lee. “That would come over to the Senate and once it became apparent that was the way to keep the government funded, (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid would have to make a difficult decision. I think it would be hard for him to explain to the American people why he would be willing to shut down the government simply to defend, doggedly, this very unpopular and unfair law that’s going to make health care more expensive in America.”
Lee says going down this path serves multiple purposes. First, he reiterates that since he and his allies are willing to fund the rest of the federal government at current rates, it would be Democrats who would be responsible for shutting down government in this fight. In addition, he says this is an important gut check for Republicans to prove their commitment to stopping Obamacare.
“The effort has got to be to persuade Republicans to stand against Obamacare funding, to say if you’re against Obamacare funding you need to prove it, not just by voting for the thirty-ninth or fortieth time to repeal it in the House knowing it’s going to go nowhere in the Senate,” said Lee, who counts between 65-70 House members and about a dozen senators who back the Obamacare defunding plan. Current government funding
Democrats may be the biggest hurdle to Lee’s plans but they may not be the first. The senator admits GOP leaders will be a tough sell on this as well.
“We’ve got some convincing to do there but we believe we’re on the side of the people in this one. Republicans were elected in record numbers in the House and to the Senate in 2010 with an mandate to undo Obamacare,” said Lee.
Despite Lee’s hopes that Democrats will agree to defund Obamacare in order to keep the rest of the federal government operating, they will likely mount a vigorous defense if necessary. Obama’s recent refrain when criticizing Republicans on economic issues, and may be applied to the Obamacare funding debate as well, is that the GOP is intent on fighting old battles and pursuing phony scandals.
“This isn’t old at all. Obamacare has yet to really kick in. It doesn’t kick in until January of 2014. So this is not an old government program. This is not an old fight. This is a new one. This is one that we’ve got to stop now if we want to save the American people from the unfairness of this selectively implemented law and the unfairness of the higher premiums that this is going to bring about in the health care market,” said Lee, who also rejects the White House contention that Congress is digging into “phony scandals”.
“Ask that to the family members of victims of what happened in Benghazi. Say that to the people whose rights were violated either by the NSA or by the IRS,” he said.